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    C-Sections Tied to Rise in Preterm Births

    One in Eight U.S. Babies Born Prematurely

    Late Preterm Births Troubling continued...

    But this does not explain why so many surgical deliveries are being performed before 39 weeks of gestation, Kilpatrick says.

    And while the risks associated with late preterm birth have not been well documented, at least one recent study found a sevenfold increase in health problems among newborns born between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation, compared with babies born later.

    In a statement issued Wednesday, March of Dimes Medical Director Alan R. Fleischman, MD, expressed concern about the medical impact of late preterm deliveries.

    "We need research to determine how many C-sections that result in preterm babies are not medically indicated and may place both mother and baby at risk for little or no medical benefit," he notes.

    C-Section Goal Far From Reality

    Whatever the reason for the increase, the rate of C-section deliveries in the U.S. is now around 30% -- double the goal of 15% for uncomplicated pregnancies by 2010 set by the U.S. government eight years ago.

    A special conference on the prevention of preterm births in the United States, scheduled for mid-June by the U.S. Surgeon General, should shed light on the causes and consequences of late preterm C-section deliveries, Petrini says.

    She adds that pregnant women who are told they need a C-section or labor induction before 39 weeks of gestation should make sure they know why.

    "One survey showed that women often couldn't identify their risk factor after having a C-section," she says.

    Kilpatrick says some obstetricians may no longer consider late preterm delivery medically risky because pediatricians do such a good job of caring for babies born late in the third trimester.

    "The view may be that 37 or 38 weeks is OK, but that is a dangerous notion," she says. "It is very important to have a good medical indication for performing a C-section or labor induction prior to 39 weeks."

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