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Health Risks for the Baby After a C-Section

By Rose Erickson ; Updated June 13, 2017

There are many reasons for a c-section, including a baby who is too big to fit through the vagina safely, slow labor, an infection like HIV, or fetal distress. Unfortunately, certain health risks are associated with the surgical procedure and medications used during a caesarean birth.

Breathing Issues

Infants who are born via a cesarean can develop respiratory and breathing problems such as tachypnea. This condition occurs because the lung fluid that is normally squeezed out as the baby passes through the birth canal remains in the lung sacs. This makes it difficult for the baby to inhale oxygen properly, causing him to breathe faster or irregularly. A baby can also flare his nostrils, grunt or moan. You may also notice his skin retracting up into the ribs rapidly as he breathes.


Baby’s who are delivered by c-section can be subject to jaundice, especially if the baby was premature. This condition causes the skin and eyes to turn yellowish in color. It develops when the pigment, called billirubin, builds up inside the blood. The liver of a newborn baby can have difficulty processing this billirubin. Although this condition does not hurt a baby, it can cause serious brain damage if left untreated.

Low Apgar Scores

The Apgar test is the very first test given to a newborn baby. It scores your baby’s pulse, respiration, appearance, activity level and grimace response. Unfortunately, a baby who is delivered via caesarean could have already been in distress or was not stimulated in the same was she would have been if she had been delivered vaginally. This can cause her to score low on the Apgar. A doctor will need to monitor her condition or provide extra emergency care.

Side Effects of Anesthesia

The anesthesia used during the surgical procedure of a c-section can affect some newborns. Because of the sedative, the baby can be sluggish or inactive. This can make it difficult for a baby to latch on during breastfeeding, which can create feeding difficulties and frustration. In addition, the American Pregnancy Association states that the anesthesia can cause the infant’s heart rate to vary or her respiration to be depressed.

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