Higher Infant Death Rates Accompany Voluntary C-Sections

If you’ve decided to have your next child via a voluntary c-section, you may want to reconsider. A study to be published in September indicates that infant and neonatal death rates during voluntary c-sections are higher than during vaginal births. Marian MacDorman as well as other researchers took a look at nearly 5.8 million live births and 12,000 infant deaths from 1998 to 2001 in order to determine the infant death risk associated with different types of birth, particularly the rates associated with voluntary c-sections compared to vaginal delivery.

In order to determine as true of a set of results as possible, the study only looked at pregnant women who had no complications with the delivery. This made the only difference between two different births the delivery method. By eliminating women with complications, the study will yield less tainted results.

The study is believed to be the first study to look at the death infant and neonatal death rate associated with voluntary c-section. Prior studies have been completed on risks associated with required c-sections; however, this study goes a step further to analyze those c-sections which are not mandatory and are instead, voluntary. The amount of births completed via c-section has rose from 20.7 percent in 1996 up to 29.1 percent in 2004, a staggering increase. This rise in c-section births has made the study more pertinent than ever.

Infant and neonatal mortality rate among babies delivered via voluntary c-section were 1.77 per 1,000. In contrast, the mortality rate for babies delivered vaginally was .62 per 1,000. A look into the causes to these starkly different figures may be linked to a number of different factors. One cause which researchers have cited is that vaginal labor and delivery releases a hormone which promotes greater and healthier lung functioning. C-sections on the other hand do not release this hormone. Researchers also stress that the force on the infant during vaginal birth pushes fluid from the lungs and prepares the young child to breathe on their own, another thing c-sections are unable to accomplish. Other causes are associated with possible cuts to the infant during the c-section procedure and delayed time before breast feeding can occur.

All of the information which was outlined in the study was drawn from information written on birth certificates. Therefore, the accuracy of the information in the study is only as accurate as it was put onto the birth certificates. The certificates are typically accurate however, so the survey will represent this fact. For low risk women, the risk of infant death is still very rare with an average of only one infant death per every 1,000 infants.

This study needs to be taken with a significant amount of consideration. The key to this entire study is that a higher risk of infant and neonatal death is associated with a voluntary study. The expectant mother will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the procedure and come to a conclusion as to whether the risk is worth the reward. This study will hopefully engage more conversation between OB/GYNs and patients as to whether this study is right for their situation and whether the indicated higher risk to the infant is worth it.

More information on this study is to be published in September edition of the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.

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