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What Are the Risks for Cesarean Section Babies?

By Lumara Lee
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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A C-section can be a lifesaving option when problems arise with the pregnancy or delivery, but this type of surgery poses some risks to the baby. The most common problems that can affect Cesarean section babies are low scores for Apgar tests, which measure the health of the newborn; difficulty breathing; and premature delivery. During a C-section, the doctor makes an incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. Although rare, there is also the possibility of the baby accidentally being injured during the surgery.

Apgar tests are generally given twice to a newborn baby. The first test is given approximately one minute after birth, and the second test is administered five minutes later. This test uses five criteria to evaluate the newborn: breathing, heart rate, skin color, activity, and responsiveness. Cesarian section babies generally have lower Apgar scores than babies delivered vaginally.

Anesthesia given to the mother for a C-section may cross the placental barrier and cause the baby to be groggy when delivered. This will cause a lower Apgar score. Additionally, Cesarian section babies lethargic from anesthesia may have difficulty staying awake to start nursing. This can delay the production of milk and postpone the bonding experience between mother and baby.

Vaginal delivery stimulates a baby, while cesarean section babies don’t receive this type of stimulation. This lack of stimulation can contribute to lower Apgar scores for cesarean section babies. It can also lead to breathing problems.

During a vaginal delivery, the infant’s body is compressed. This compression is beneficial for the baby because it helps expel fluid from the lungs. Cesarean section babies have a completely different birth experience and don’t receive this compression. This doesn’t mean that all caesarian section babies will have breathing difficulties, however. Breathing difficulties generally occur in Cesarian section babies delivered only before 39 weeks' gestation.

Another problem Cesarian section babies may experience is premature delivery. A pregnant woman’s due date is an estimate and cannot be determined precisely. Babies delivered prematurely have a higher rate of asthma and other breathing difficulties than babies delivered vaginally.

Some women choose to have elective C-sections for reasons of vanity, fearing that their vaginas will become stretched out if they have a normal, vaginal birth. Cesarian section babies can be cut by the scalpel during a C-section. When a pregnant woman and fetus are healthy, vaginal delivery is always preferable to a Cesarean section and can give the baby a healthier start on life.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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