C-Sections in U.S. Stable After 12-Year Rise: CDC
Guidelines discouraging early elective deliveries may have helped
C-sections became more commonplace for several reasons, Maiman said. Some included convenience for doctors and patients who wanted to schedule a delivery and avoid potential complications of a vaginal delivery. Also, women were uninformed about the benefits of a vaginal delivery, he noted.
For mothers, more than one C-section significantly increases the risk of complications and death, Maiman said. Now, doctors may encourage women who have had a C-section to try a vaginal birth later.
For babies, the danger is the prematurity.
"Any prematurity, even slight prematurity, leads to increased complications for the baby," Maiman said. High rates of asthma and a risk for obesity are also associated with C-section births, he said.
According to the March of Dimes, elective C-sections likely contribute to the number of babies born "late preterm," between 34 and 36 weeks' gestation. Although these babies are usually considered healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born at full term.
Compared to a full-term baby, an infant born late preterm is more likely to have problems with breathing, feeding and maintaining body temperature, the March of Dimes states.
And a study published earlier this year by University of Michigan researchers found that birth at 39 to 41 weeks provides more developmental advantages compared to birth at 37 to 38 weeks.
"We need to leave mothers alone so that the infant can have a full-term delivery," Maiman said.