When moms deliver long before their due dates, there's often a double whammy of stress. Not only are their babies born preterm, with the health issues that often go along with that, but most of these moms undergo C-sections, which can result in longer birth recovery times—right at a time they need their energy the most.
Now, though, there's some good news for moms who deliver preterm. According to a large study of almost 3,000 babies born between the 24th and 32nd week of pregnancy, researchers found that even very preterm babies can be safely delivered vaginally, provided they are not in the breech position.
As The New York Times reports, researchers found no difference in neonatal deaths of preterm babies whether the mother attempted a vaginal delivery or had a C-section. However, with breech preterm babies, the study also confirmed that a C-section is the safer way to go.
So, why wouldn't you want to have a C-section? "C-sections at these early ages of gestation are associated with increased rates of complication," study lead author, Dr. Uma M. Reddy, an obstetrician with the National Institutes of Health, tells the Times. These can include infection and blood clot risks for moms, and for babies, lung problems and more frequent NICU stays.
Dr. Reddy advises that "if you need to be delivered at less than 32 weeks and the baby is head-down [not breech], attempting vaginal delivery has a high success rate."
But how do you know what's right for you? Discuss all the possibilities for birth with your doctor way before you think to—just in case. Says mom Kara Rock from Norfolk, Virginia, "At 30 weeks, without much warning, I went into labor and had to deliver. It was never even questioned that I wouldn't have a C-section. Everything turned out fine, but I wish I could have at least found out my options."