The first, from the June issue of Pediatrics, mentions a study which found C-Sections may increase the risk of celiac disease, as opposed to those infants born vaginally.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder which leads to inflammation of the gut when the person consumes any foods containing gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye). In terms of the western diet, that’s a toughie.
The researchers have no certain understanding of the process at this point, but hypothesize that perhaps the phenomenon is linked to the fact that infants born via C-Section miss out on the squeeze down the vaginal tract. We know that action helps eliminate fluid in the respiratory tract, but now scientists think perhaps there are other important microbes an infant would ordinarily encounter which trigger some sort of digestive colonization. As in all closed systems,when one part malfunctions, the result has a domino effect.
Another story, out of the journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology, mentions a study of over 20,000 pregnancies in Scotland spanning a period of 60 years. The results are glum: mothers who were themselves born early (defined as 24-37 weeks gestation) were 60% more likely to have a preterm baby. Although there is no cure at this time, just knowing it, makes a case for early prenatal care.
Hang in there, mothers. The March of Dimes is working as fast as they can to find a solution.
I am pleased to see, albeit sad to hear, the news media bring attention to the recent study results about developmental problems among Late Preterm Infants. I represent a national community of NICU nurses, who has been conscientiously lobbying to change the increase in late preterm births, for over a decade.
It is true that these elective cesarean sections are often brought on by real medical problems. However, the cavalier attitude of some obstetricians seems to be rooted in the fact that in the US, NICUs “produce miracles all the time,” as one OB argued. This has led to a measurable increase in “Monday-Friday” c-sections, as thoughtful physicians plan their patient’s deliveries around their own weekend plans.
My research for the film, Micropremature Babies: How Low Can You Go? included many interviews with families of micropremature and late preterm (ie, 34-36 weeks gestation) infants. Generally, the news was encouraging and hopeful. But visits to several developmental clinics convinced me that there is a variable within our treatment in the NICUs that cannot yet be explained. We expect our micropremature or very low birth weight infants to need up to three years to catch up to their peers born at 38-40 weeks, yet we do not expect our 34-36 weekers to have negative sequelae… Why not? Turn back the clock 50 years and these babies would have been considered very fragile. Medical technology has advanced, but has that impacted the fragility of a late preterm infant?
The difference between today and 50 years ago, is that now we have babies born early and earlier. Any preterm birth includes the possibility of a large spectrum of problems as well as triumphs. As a patient advocate, and as a mom, I urge all parents to be proactive and not in a hurry to be delivered of their late preterm infant, unless it is truly a medical emergency. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security by an obstetrician who tells you that the baby will be fine just because the L/S ratio is within normal limits. (That screening tool is not 100% accurate.)