Neonatal Outcome after Trial of Labor Compared with Elective Repeat Cesarean Section


Address correspondence to Ellice Lieberman, MD, DrPH, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Woman's Hospital, 75 Francis St., Boston, MA 02115.


ABSTRACT: Background: Trial of labor after cesarean section has been an important strategy for lowering the rate of cesarean delivery in the United States, but concerns regarding its safety remain. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcome of newborns delivered by elective repeat cesarean section compared to delivery following a trial of labor after cesarean.

Methods: All low-risk mothers with 1 or 2 previous cesareans and no prior vaginal deliveries, who delivered at our institution from December 1994 through July 1995, were identified. Neonatal outcomes were compared between 136 women who delivered by elective repeat cesarean section and 313 women who delivered after a trial of labor. To investigate reasons for differences in outcome between these groups, neonatal outcomes within the trial of labor group were then compared between those mothers who had received epidural analgesia (n = 230) and those who did not (n = 83).

Results: Infants delivered after a trial of labor had increased rates of sepsis evaluation (23.3% vs 12.5%, p = 0.008); antibiotic treatment (11.5% vs 4.4%, p = 0.02); intubation to evaluate for the presence of meconium below the cords (11.5% vs 1.5%, p < 0.001); and mild bruising (8.0% vs 1.5%, p = 0.008). Within the trial of labor group, infants of mothers who received epidural analgesia were more likely to have received diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions including sepsis evaluation (29.6% vs 6.0%, p = 0.001) and antibiotic treatment (13.9% vs 4.8%, p = 0.03) than within the no-epidural analgesia group.

Conclusions: Infants born to mothers after a trial of labor are twice as likely to undergo diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions than infants born after an elective repeat cesarean section, but the increase occurred only in the subgroup of infants whose mothers received epidural analgesia for pain relief during labor. The higher rate of intervention could relate to the well-documented increase in intrapartum fever that occurs with epidural use. (BIRTH 30:2 June 2003)