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Preterm Births Affect Newborn Health

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 07, 2009 11:57 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Children's Health, Pregnancy, C-Sections, Birth, Women's Health, Labor, Premature Births

Preterm babies have a multitude of potential health problems, many studies find.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ premature baby in incubator, Iraq, September 2004/ U.S. Agency for International Development 


Scheduling Cesarean sections has become increasingly common for women who have previously had a c-section and want the convenience of knowing when their baby will be born.  

But there is strong evidence that the date of delivery is crucial to minimizing health problems in the newborn. 

In this study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at 19 medical centers monitored more than 13,000 babies born by c-section between the years 1999 and 2002.

More than one third of the newborns were delivered at 37 or 38 weeks. Those babies had higher rates of respiratory distress, infection and hypoglycemia than full-term babies born at 39 or 40 weeks.

And longer in the womb wasn’t necessary better. Babies born during a scheduled c-section at 41 or 42 weeks also experienced problems.  The lasts few weeks of development in a pregnancy are crucial for brain, lung and liver development.

Last October, a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also found a 23 percent decrease in respiratory problems, seizures, brain hemorrhage and temperature instability each week a baby stayed longer in the womb after 32 weeks. 

Children born between 32 and 36 weeks had lower reading and math scores, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics in July. 

And in December, a Journal of Pediatrics study found that babies born between 34 and 36 weeks account for more than 70 percent of preterm births. These babies were more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy as full term babies.  They were also at an increased risk of developing mental retardation or being developmentally delayed.

More than a half million babies are born preterm in the U.S. and the numbers are on the rise.

Babies are often scheduled to be born within the end of an old year to claim a tax deduction or for convenience.  C-sections now account for about one-third of all births and many pre-term births are attributed to c-sections.  

While there are many medical reasons to induce, Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director and senior vice president of the March of Dimes suspects the “convenience factor, non-medically indicated reasons maybe part of the problem at hand.” #

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