Studies have suggested that a reduction in neonatal respiratory morbidity may be achieved by delaying elective caesarean section until 39 weeks gestation. In 1997 staff at the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital were concerned at the level of neonatal respiratory morbidity following elective caesarean section.
Aims: To determine the extent of neonatal respiratory morbidity following elective caesarean section at term. Then to present the findings, make recommendations and perform a repeat analysis.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of all elective caesarean sections at term between October 1996 and October 1997 was performed. Labour ward, operating theatre and SCBU records were examined, followed by maternal and infant case note review. The gestational age at the time of caesarean section and any neonatal respiratory morbidity was recorded. The results were subsequently presented at a perinatal morbidity meeting and a recommendation made to delay elective sections until 39 weeks gestation. The audit was repeated between June 1999 and June 2000.
Results: The first cycle of the audit showed significantly lower rates of neonatal admissions with advancing gestation (p < 0.001). There was also a reduction in the number of infants requiring oxygen (p = 0.001), the number of infants requiring intensive care admission (p = 0.001) and ventilation (p = 0.003) with advancing gestation. In the second cycle of the audit there was a significant decrease in the number of elective caesarean sections performed prior to 39 weeks gestation (51% vs. 26%) (p < 0.0001). There were fewer neonatal admissions with respiratory morbidity between the two phases of the audit (26/292 vs. 18/327) (RR = 0.62, 95% CI 0.34-1.1). There was also a reduction in the number of infants requiring oxygen (RR = 0.5, 95% CI 0.23-1.06) the number of infants requiring intensive care admission (RR = 0.45, 95% CI 0.15-1.29) and the number of infants requiring ventilation (RR = 0.38, 95% CI 0.1-1.47).
Conclusion: A reduction in neonatal respiratory morbidity can be achieved by delaying elective caesarean section until 39 weeks gestation.