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Repeat C-section before 39 weeks raises risk of neonatal illness

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Women choosing repeat cesarean deliveries and having them at term but before completing 39 weeks gestation are up to two times more likely to have a baby with serious complications including respiratory distress resulting in mechanical ventilation and NICU admission.

UAB researchers, led by Alan T.N. Tita, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and colleagues reported in a study published January 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine that women who choose to have their babies delivered via repeat cesarean at 37 or 38 weeks without a medical or obstetric indication, risk serious complications for their child.

"The cesarean rate in the United States has risen dramatically, from 20.7 percent in 1996 to 31.1 percent in 2006. A major reason is the decline in attempted vaginal births after cesarean. Because elective cesareans can be scheduled to accommodate patient and physician convenience, there is a risk that they may be performed earlier than is appropriate." Tita said. "We knew from previous small studies that infants born before 39 weeks' gestation are at increased risk for respiratory distress. Because nearly 40 percent of the cesareans performed in the United States each year are repeat procedures, we undertook this large study to describe the timing of elective repeat cesareans and assess its relationship with the risk of various adverse neonatal outcomes."

Tita and colleagues studied 13,258 women who had elective repeat cesarean sections at the 19 centers of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network from 1999 through 2002. They were selected from the Cesarean Section Registry of the network. The registry contains detailed, prospectively collected information on nearly 50,000 women with a prior cesarean who underwent either repeat

Contact: Jennifer Lollar
University of Alabama at Birmingham

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