Caesarean Delivery / C-section Carries a Higher Risk of Birth Injury

Caesarean Delivery / C-section Carries a Higher Risk of Birth Injury

Caesarean birth — also known as a C-section — is the birth of a baby through an incision in the mother's abdomen. Although C-sections are sometimes planned due to pregnancy complications or previous C-sections, most first-time C-sections occur unexpectedly.


Getting the unexpected news that you need a C-section can be stressful, both for you and your partner. In an instant, your expectations about giving birth abruptly change. In case of emergency, your health care provider may not have time to explain the procedure and answer your questions.

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.

Recovery from a C-section takes longer than recovery from a vaginal birth. Caesarean delivery also carries a higher risk of complications, just as with other types of major surgery.Complications that may affect the baby include:

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.

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