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Delivering Babies Even a Few Weeks Early Ups Respiratory Risks
Date:7/27/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- Infants born even a few weeks early run the risk of developing breathing problems compared with full-term babies, a new study finds.

Late preterm births -- defined as between the 34th and 37th weeks of pregnancy -- account for about 9 percent of all infants born in the United States, the researchers said. And too often, they are the result of a planned Cesarean deliveries, one expert noted.

However, delivering even a bit before term may carry risks for baby, the researchers reported.

"Our study verifies that late preterm birth neonates delivered from 34 to 37 weeks have much higher risks for respiratory complications than infants delivered from 38 to 40 weeks gestation," said lead researcher Dr. Judith U. Hibbard, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "The risk for respiratory [illness] decreases with each advancing week of gestation."

The study provides good information for parents on respiratory outcomes for newborns, Hibbard said.

"In addition, it may discourage obstetricians and providers from delivering women earlier without good indications and may prompt further research into why there is such a high late preterm birth rate in the U.S. -- and what interventions we might undertake to decrease it," she said.

The report is published in the July 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Hibbard's team looked at data on almost 234,000 deliveries performed between 2002 and 2008 at 19 hospitals across the United States.

Among the more than 19,000 late preterm births observed in the study, 7,055 babies had to be placed in neonatal intensive care units. Of these, 2,032 suffered from respiratory problems, the researchers found.

In contrast, of the nearly 166,000 babies born at term, 11,980 were admitted to a neonatal i
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