About 1 in 100 babies delivered by cesarean section are injured in the process, a new study shows. The risk of injury is influenced by the reasons for doing the c-section.
Dr. James M. Alexander, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and colleagues analyzed data from all 37,110 cesarean deliveries that took place at 13 academic centers between 1999 and 2000.
The overall rate of injury to the baby was 1.1 percent, according to the team’s report in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Wounds to the skin accounted for more than half of the injuries. The next most common injury was severe bruising of the head, followed by broken collarbone, facial nerve damage, injury to the chest-arm nerve network, and skull fracture.
In women with a first-time c-section as well as those who had previously undergone the procedure, the highest rate of fetal injury occurred following an attempt to deliver through the birth canal using forceps or vacuum.
On the other hand, the lowest risk of injury was associated with elective repeat cesarean deliveries.
While c-section can prevent birth trauma in certain circumstances, it can also cause injury, Alexander and colleagues point out, as the current findings illustrate. “Women should be counseled that, although fetal injury is uncommon, it is not absent in cesarean delivery,” they advise.
SOURCE: Obstetrics & Gynecology, October 2006.
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD