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New Study on the Safety of Vaginal Births

Disagreement about the superior methods of childbirth rage in many circles, including between mothers deciding what is best in their specific case. This is perhaps most vivid in discussions about births at home or births in the hospitals. Some prefer a natural birth in a non-medical setting, while others argue that hospitals are the only setting for these situations.

It is sometimes confusing to understand how these decisions play into potential medical malpractice or negligence cases in the event that problems develop. At the end of the day, the law is flexible in that compensation may be demanded in all cases where basic standards of care are not followed. Reasonable protocols exist in all setting–from hospitals to home births–and those involved are required to follow those standards.

In other words, no one can say for certain what is the best option for each individual family. But is is still important to understand possible risks of each option. Every day more information is released as researchers learn more about how certain childbirth options affect mothers and children. For example, just this week Medical Express published a story on study on the safety of vaginal birth in pre-term infants.

New Research on Vaginal Births for Significantly Premature Infants
The research comes from the National Institute of Health (NIH) related to comparison of outcomes for vaginal birth and cesarean section births for premature babies.

The story explains how pregnancy typically last 40 weeks. Those born three weeks early (before the 37th week) are officially deemed “pre-term.” Early pre-term refers to those born two months early (before the 32nd week). It is well-known that all pre-term infants face an increased risk of serious complications, like developing cerebral palsy, infant death, developmental delays, or sensory issues.

Early pre-term infants face significantly higher risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that while only 2% of infants are born this early, the small group accounts for over 54% of all infant deaths. Considering the high number of infants born this early who do not survive, it is critical to understand any specific steps that might increase the risk of survival. For one thing, do infants born this early fare better after a vaginal delivery or surgical delivery (C-section)?

That was the focus of the NIH study.

In the past, some suggested that C-section deliveries increased long-term survival rates. Tangentially, those born via planned surgical delivery were said to suffer fewer long-term injury and health effects because they were spared the trauma of going through the birth canal. However, C-sections are known to pose risks of their own, including potential maternal hemorrhage and bladder injuries.

The take-away from this latest study may be that surgical and vaginal birth in these sections are a draw. The researchers examined about 3,000 births of pre-term infants, comparing those who delivered vaginally and those who underwent a planned C-section. They found that survival rates for the infants were about the same in both cases. Importantly, this refers only to babies born head-first. Breech position birth (feet first) wre found to increase problems during vaginal delivery, as they likely present unique complications which would more likely require a C-section.

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