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Health & Pregnancy

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Early Planned C-Sections Put Baby at Risk

Study Shows 36% of Planned C-Sections Are Performed Before 39 Weeks of Gestation

Convenience Driving Early Delivery

Why are so many women having C-sections before 39 weeks of gestation?

Women who were insured, older, and married were the most likely to have early, planned deliveries, the study shows. In an editorial accompanying the study, Massachusetts General Hospital director of obstetrics Michael Greene, MD, wrote that these women are more likely to place a premium on their own doctor delivering their babies.

"To accommodate busy schedules and to minimize the chance that a patient will begin labor and require a non-elective procedure when her doctor might not be available, procedures are frequently scheduled just before 39 weeks of gestation," he wrote.

Green tells WebMD that most obstetricians probably see no harm in pushing delivery dates back a week or so, and will be surprised by the study findings.

"These findings tell us that when it comes to newborn morbidity, many doctors and their patients are running a yellow light if not a red light," he says.

Physicians may also be feeling pressure from hospital administrators to perform planned C-sections at specific times.

Tita points out that the rate of early, planned, C-section deliveries ranged from a low of 18% to a high of 50% at the hospitals participating in the study.

"This indicates that some of this was driven by the institutions," he says.

Thorp says he tries to perform planned, uncomplicated cesarean sections in the 39th week, but he admits that it is sometimes a challenge.

"I would have loved to have performed the two that I did this morning at the end of last week," he says. "That would have fit my schedule better and it would have made my patients happy. But they hadn't quite reached 39 weeks."

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