Study Suggests C-Sections Do Not Reduce Risk of Cerebral Palsy

The findings of new research suggest that cesarean section deliveries may not help prevent children from developing cerebral palsy, challenging widely held beliefs among many medical experts.  

In a study published in the December 2013 issue of the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers from Australia found that children born via C-section were no less likely to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy than children delivered vaginally.

The findings raise questions about the causes of cerebral palsy, which has been linked to a lack of oxygen or trauma during birth.

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According to the researchers, C-sections have increased over the past 40 years from approximately 5% of all births to more than 30% in many industrialized nations. However, the rate of cerebral palsy has remained unchanged at about 2 to 2.5 cases per 1,000 deliveries.

The study looked at nine case-control and four cohort studies involving data on nearly 1.7 million births, including 3,800 children with cerebral palsy.

“Both elective cesarean delivery before labor and emergency cesarean delivery during labor have increased six-fold without affecting cerebral palsy rates,” the researchers concluded. “This is despite modern research showing that the neuropathology of cerebral palsy is mostly established antenatally and uncommonly in labor.”

This latest study comes on the heels of research conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS), which was published in the same medical journal in September. According to that study, which looked at the risk factors of cerebral palsy, birth defects and poor fetal growth appeared to be more associated with cerebral palsy than oxygen deprivation or infections during delivery.

Cerebral palsy involves serious brain damage that results in a life-long disability for the child, which can range from mild symptoms, such as clumsiness and awkwardness, to severe cases involving an inability to walk, talk and move independently.

In cases where cerebral palsy is linked to a medical mistake during birth during delivery, it is common for families to investigate potential medical malpractice lawsuits to determine if the disability may have preventable if the appropriate standards of medical care had been followed.

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