Elective caesarean sections are growing in popularity. However, this procedure is more likely to result in adverse effects to the mother and baby, compared with vaginal birth. Now, a new study reveals that C-sections dramatically boost a newborn’s odds of developing respiratory problems especially when performed earlier than 39 weeks.

The analysis included 34,458 births, 2,687 of which were delivered via C-section. Findings revealed that “compared with newborns delivered vaginally or by emergency caesarean sections, those delivered by elective caesarean section around term have an increased risk of overall and serious respiratory morbidity. The relative risk increased with decreasing gestational age.” Specifically, babies born via caesarean at 37 weeks had nearly a fourfold boosted risk of breathing difficulties, compared with a threefold increase at 38 weeks and double the risk at 39 weeks. The study’s authors urge mothers who choose elective C-sections to wait until 39 weeks to have the surgery.

BMJ – December 2007;Epub. www.bmj.com

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