THURSDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Small, premature infants born by cesarean section are at 30 percent higher risk for serious breathing problems than those delivered vaginally, a new study finds.
Respiratory distress syndrome, which mostly affects premature newborns and can lead to ongoing breathing problems, blindness and brain damage, was more common in the babies born by cesarean, or C-section, delivery, researchers found.
"I would say that we at least showed that there may not be any benefit to cesarean delivery in preterm births, and more research is needed before the C-section rate goes up even further," said study leader Dr. Erika Werner, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Between 2002 and 2009, cesarean deliveries in the United States rose from 27 percent of births to 34 percent, according to a HealthGrades report. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported a dip in rates to slightly under 33 percent in 2010.
Groups such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are trying to curb cesarean deliveries, but without much success.
"I'm acutely aware as a clinician that the C-section rate is rising, and there were prior studies that really had mixed results," Werner said. "Some suggested an increased risk of bleeding in the brain and some suggested increased risk of death in this population with a vaginal delivery. So I really wanted to look at a contemporary, diverse population."
The researchers analyzed birth data on 2,560 small-for-gestational-age babies delivered between 25 and 34 weeks of pregnancy in New York City hospitals from 1995 to 2003. (Before 37 weeks is considered preterm). Forty-six percent were delivered vaginally and 54 percent by C-section. The study only looked at live births and excluded mothers who had a previous ces
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