The neonatal death rate among babies born naturally is just 0.62 per 1,000 births, but that rate leaps to 1.77 deaths among babies born by Caesarean. Neonatal rates are measured for the first 28 days after birth.
The findings may put a sudden halt to the increases in elective Caesarean deliveries, which are those where the women chooses to have the procedure even when there is no good medical reason for it.
In 2003 in America, nearly 28 per cent of all births were by Caesarean section while the rate is only slightly lower in the UK. Of these around 16 per cent are first-time Caesareans, and the remainder is made up of women who previously had a Caesarean, giving weight to the idea of 'once a Caesarean, always a Caesarean'.
A Caesarean section is a major abdominal operation that should be performed only when either the mother or the baby is at risk. The World Health Organization reckons that no country should have a Caesarean rate greater than 10 per cent of all births, which should cover all necessary interventions.
Researchers of the new study surmise that a natural birth helps squeeze fluids from the newborn's lungs, while the process also releases hormones that help establish healthy lungs.
(Source: Birth, 2006; 33: 175).
E-news broadcast 7 September 2006 No.290 [Subscribe]