Saturday, February 11, 2012

Think Twice Before You Say Yes to a C-Section Because Your Baby is Arriving Prematurely

Last week in the New York Times Roni Rabin reported on a new study coming out of John's Hopkins School of Medicine which throws a wrench into the machinery of conventional medical thinking. Until now doctors have believed that it is safer for your premie to be born via surgery. The study included 2,560 babies. When they compared babies born mother nature's way to those born in a surgery suite the babies delivered by C-section were 30 percent more likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome, a serious breathing disorder that can lead to organ damage.

It must be tough to be an Obstetrician. You are constantly practicing medicine on women with the best of intentions only to have studies prove that what you are doing is not only medically unnecessary but harmful. No doctor goes into medicine to harm women, so I have to wonder how they feel about it each time one of these issues comes to light and they have to reverse course. Do they think back over the women they sectioned who had complications? Do they remember the babies who ended up with serious respiratory infections and wonder if their belief in the "preventative" cesarean may have caused that baby to suffer? What about the extra stress on families separated even longer from their babies? What about all the money families spent on additional NICU care for premies with breathing issues? I wonder if someone will try to figure out what that bill was for our nation?

So how did OBs get into such a mess? It is grounded in the systemic belief which underlies much of the medical model thinking about birth that women's bodies are essentially unsafe for babies, especially the vagina. To understand where this bedrock of the medical view of the world came from you have to go back to male dominated religion, Eve, sin and the apple, the Greek belief in the perfection of the male body, and an unwavering belief in man & technology over nature and women's bodies. Time and time again this flawed way of thinking has led them into relying on drugs to fix problems only to learn later that they were harmful to mothers or babies. They rely on machines, tests and statistics to give us flawed due dates which lead to inductions of accidentally premie babies, continuous fetal monitoring which led to many more c-sections for fetal distress with no lowering of the fetal death rate, and windows of normal so narrow that fewer and fewer women can thread the needle of pregnancy & birth without being labeled as high risk. So this line of thinking led them to believe, without any studies being done, that it would be safer for premies to be saved from the rigors of a vaginal birth. It apparently never entered their minds that traveling through the vagina served a purpose in a complex system of birth, growth and life long health. Or that being squeezed would push fluid out of the lungs and that the sides of the vagina would coat the baby with beneficial flora. These two items may be why there are less respiritory infections in vaginal birth babies. Instead as the medical provider they donned their super hero robes and stepped in as saviour. The problem with being a super hero is the responsibility. So now they are left to face their responsibility. Of course I'm not looking for some kind of loud national apology. That never happened in the past and it won't happen now. Read the Times article below and then take Dr. Werner, the lead author of the study's advice and have a frank discussion with your doctor.

New York Times
February 9, 2012, 3:22 pm
C-Sections Pose Respiratory Risks for Some Small Preemies

Small premature babies born by Caesarean section are at increased risk of respiratory distress syndrome, a new study has found.Very small babies delivered prematurely by Caesarean section because they were not growing properly in the womb developed more respiratory problems than those who had induced vaginal deliveries, a new study found. The study adds to growing concern over the high rate of Caesarean section deliveries in the United States, which reached 32 percent, or nearly one in three deliveries, in 2007.

On Wednesday, the federal secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, announced a public health campaign to educate families that it is best for both the mother and the baby to let a problem-free pregnancy go for as long as possible, and to let labor start naturally. The campaign is a partnership that expands on a March of Dimes public awareness drive emphasizing that “healthy babies are worth the wait.”

The latest study looked at babies who were extremely small for their gestational age and not growing properly in utero, so waiting was not a medical option. But the findings raise new questions about the risks of Caesarean section.

For the study, researchers analyzed nine years of data from births in New York City, identifying 2,560 babies who were small for their gestational age and delivered between 25 and 34 weeks of pregnancy. Forty-six percent were delivered vaginally, and 54 percent by Caesarean section.

“The conventional thinking, though nobody really knew, was that maybe it would be less traumatic for this group to have a C-section, and they might benefit,” said Dr. Erika F. Werner, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “Our study suggests that may not be true.”

In fact, the babies delivered by C-section were 30 percent more likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome, a serious breathing disorder that can lead to organ damage and that is more common in premature infants, Dr. Werner and colleagues from Brown and Yale Universities found.

The C-section deliveries were not associated with improved outcomes in terms of other complications, including hemorrhages, seizures, low Apgar scores and sepsis, the researchers found. Results were adjusted for differences in the mother’s age, ethnicity, education, health status and weight.

The findings are being presented today at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Dallas.

“The takeaway is that if you’re in this situation, you should have a frank discussion with your doctor that maybe a vaginal delivery is equivalent, or even better,” Dr. Werner said. “We need further research to determine if there is any benefit to C-section” for such infants, she said.

Another consideration is that when a woman has one baby born by Caesarean section, subsequent children are far more likely to be delivered by C-section as well.

As to why vaginal deliveries appear to improve respiratory function, Dr. Werner said, “We don’t have the perfect answer.” Some experts believe that the physical compression the baby experiences during labor helps remove fluid from the lungs and prepares the baby to breathe air.

Dr. Diane M. Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes, who has been overseeing the organization’s Prematurity Campaign to educate the public, said similarly improved outcomes are seen with infants delivered further along in a pregnancy.

“This is consistent with what is seen in infants even at 37 weeks,” she said. “They, too, have better respiratory outcomes when delivered vaginally versus C-delivery.”

Studies suggest that premature births of single babies have been increasing in recent years and that more are being delivered by Caesarean section, including C-sections that are not medically necessary. At the same time, recent research shows that a baby’s lungs and brain undergo important growth and development during the last few weeks of pregnancy, and that babies born just three to six weeks before their due dates are more likely to suffer disabilities or developmental delays in kindergarten.

Last year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new medical guidelines meant to lower the rate of repeat Caesareans by making it easier for women to find doctors and hospitals that will let them attempt a vaginal delivery even when a previous baby was delivered by C-section. Although these women are at risk for a serious complication called uterine rupture, ruptures affect fewer than 1 percent of women, while C-sections, which involve major abdominal surgery, carry many other risks both to the mother and to the child.

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