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Elective Early Deliveries Pose Risks for Babies
Date:12/18/2008

C-sections done too soon can lead to respiratory trouble, other problems, doctors say

THURSDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The rise in Caesarean deliveries could be fueling the increase in the number of preterm babies, and these early births carry risks, including respiratory problems, jaundice and developmental problems.

That was the message delivered Tuesday during a March of Dimes conference in New York City on the health risks facing preterm babies.

While babies are considered preterm if they are born before 37 weeks of gestation, even those born before 39 weeks -- called early term -- could be missing out on the last benefits of gestation, the doctors said.

"There is more and more data suggesting that there is lots of development between 37 and 39 weeks [of gestation]," said Dr. Laura E. Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital, who spoke at the conference. It's in the best interest of the baby to stay in the womb for a full-term delivery, she said.

"It is very important for lay people to understand that every week counts, and that they shouldn't be cavalier about delivering early," added Dr. Lucky Jain, medical director of Emory Children's Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. During the last weeks in the womb, the "fetus is going through last-minute preparations for a safe landing," he said.

From 1996 to 2004, there was an increase of almost 60,000 preterm deliveries -- those before 37 weeks of gestation -- among single-birth pregnancies. And more than 90 percent of those deliveries were done by Caesarean section, according to an analysis by the March of Dimes and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There could be several reasons for the increase in early C-sections, said Dr. Bryan T. Oshiro, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, in Loma Linda, Calif., who spoke
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