Early C-Sections Raise Babies' Health Risks

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2009 6:20 PM CST
Shannon Eubanks with her new baby, Kathleen, and husband Gaston Eubanks in Chapel Hill, N.C. Eubanks waited until the 39th week of her pregnancy to schedule a Caesarean.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Doctors and parents often schedule elective C-sections too early, raising the risk of health problems for the baby, USA Today reports. Nearly one in four such Caesarians occur before the recommended 39th week of pregnancy, a new study shows. It makes a difference: Babies delivered by elective C-section at 37 weeks are twice as likely to have breathing problems or other complications than those delivered two weeks later, the Washington Post notes.

A baby is generally considered full term at 37 weeks, which explains why many C-sections are scheduled—often out of convenience—at that point. But the study warns of a difference between deliveries that occur naturally then—the baby has signaled it's ready—and C-sections. "I think that as a patient or a physician you might be convinced that being close to 39 weeks is probably good enough," said one lead researcher. "Before this we didn't have the data to say that there would be more risk."