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Linking elective C-sections to infant respiratory issues

The increase in cesareans performed in Providence County and throughout the rest of the country has also come a rise in the number of women requesting elective C-sections. According to information shared by the National Center for Health Statistics through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 32 percent of all live births in America are performed via C-section. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that as many as 2.5 percent of those are requested in cases where there are no mandated maternal or fetal indications.

Many may accept the belief that elective C-sections are a safer method of delivery than vaginal births because the potential for complications arising from labor or a baby’s descent through the birth canal are eliminated. At the same time, some may suggest that doctors push this alternative on expectant mothers because it may be more convenient for them. Whatever the actual reasons behind an elective C-section may be, evidence may suggest that it could pose an increased risk of babies suffering neonatal respiratory distress syndrome.

Medline Plus describes neonatal RDS as respiratory issues associated with underdeveloped lungs in babies. It is caused due to a lack of surfactant, a substance that helps keep the lungs filled with air and is present primarily in fully developed lungs. Treatment includes delivering surfactant through an infant’s airway. Potential complications associated with neonatal RDS include:

  •          Pulmonary hemorrhaging
  •          Delayed lung development
  •          Other problems associated with prematurity, such blindness or brain damage

Neonatal RDS occurs mostly in babies delivered between 37 to 39 weeks of gestation. This could account for the reason why some believe babies born via elective C-section could have a higher risk of developing this condition. Doctors typically schedule such cases prior to a mother’s expected delivery date to avoid them going into labor.


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