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BJOG. 2006 Dec;113 Suppl 3:81-5.

Mode of delivery in the early preterm infant (<28 weeks).

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Leeds, UK.

Erratum in

  • BJOG. 2008 Apr;115(5):674-5.


Elective caesarean section for women in labour with an immature baby might reduce the chances of fetal or neonatal death, but might also increase the risk of maternal morbidity. A review (updated in February 2004) of randomised trials comparing a policy of elective caesarean section versus expectant management with recourse to caesarean section produced six studies involving only 122 women. Differences in fetal outcome did not reach significance, but mothers undergoing elective caesarean section were more likely to have serious morbidity. Scientifically, the evidence remains inadequate. Clinically, the recommendation is that prematurity is not, in itself, an indication for caesarean section. In a survey from Israel, published in December 2004, of 2955 very low birthweight infants born at 24-34 weeks of gestation, the overall caesarean section rate was 51.7%, and the mortality rate among babies prior to discharge was lower after caesarean section (13.2 versus 21.8%). After adjustment using multiple logistic regression, caesarean section had no effect on survival except in a subgroup with amnionitis, and it was again concluded that caesarean section cannot be routinely recommended unless there are other indications. A decision model developed in the USA has compared costs and health outcomes of two options for managing labour at 24 weeks of gestation. The probabilities of both intact survival (16.8 versus 12.9%) and survival with major morbidity (39.2 versus 19.4%) are higher with willingness to perform caesarean section, but less aggressive management is the more cost-effective strategy. Large studies are few and recruitment to such studies is perceived as a major problem. For clinicians, the decision will be influenced by local circumstances.

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