Washington, May 28 : Cesarean sections are responsible for almost all of the increase in singleton preterm births, according to a new study.
Researchers from the March of Dimes and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found between 1996 and 2004 there was an increase of nearly 60,000 singleton preterm births and 92 percent of those infants were delivered by a cesarean section, (c-section).
The singleton preterm births increased by about 10 percent while among those the c-section the rate increased by 36 percent.
Preterm birth is a serious and costly health concern and is the leading cause of death in the first month of life. The late preterm babies, those born 34-36 weeks gestation, account for most of the increase in the US singleton preterm birth rate.
The infants are at an increased risk of developing breathing problems, feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice, delayed brain development and death than babies born at term.
"While maternal and fetal complications during pregnancy may result in the need for a c-section, we're concerned that some early c-section deliveries may be occurring for non-medically indicated reasons," said Dr Alan R. Fleischman, the March of Dimes medical director and senior vice president.
"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 added.
A c-section delivery can be lifesaving when there are complications during pregnancy, but it is a major operation with potential risks to the mother from the surgery and anesthesia and to the baby, if the delivery occurs too soon.
The study will be published in the June issue of Clinics in Perinatology.