AJOG: Neonatal morbidity and mortality by mode of delivery in very preterm neonates



The safest mode of delivery to use for very preterm infants is an ongoing topic of debate. There are many reasons to perform a cesarean delivery in cases of extremely preterm and very preterm infants, including indication for labor, fetal distress, maternal indications, and malpresentation.


This study aimed to determine whether cesarean delivery is associated with a considerable improvement in neonatal morbidity.

Study Design

This study is a retrospective cohort study of all singleton pregnancies, delivered from 22 to 29 weeks’ gestation between 2010 and 2015, admitted for preterm labor or preterm premature rupture of membranes and excluded neonates with a delivery weight ≤500 g, multiple gestations, cases with intrauterine fetal demise, and induced terminations. The primary outcome for the study was a neonatal morbidity composite (Apgar score of <5 at 5 minutes, prolonged ventilation (>28 days), intraventricular hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis, coagulopathy, discharged on home ventilator support, or discharged with enteric feeding tube). Cesarean deliveries were performed for standard obstetrical indications. Regression models were used and adjusted for nulliparity, delivery year, and presentation at the time of delivery to determine whether cesarean delivery is associated with neonatal morbidity or neonatal death.


There were 271 eligible deliveries, which included 128 cesarean deliveries and 143 vaginal deliveries. The cesarean delivery group had fewer nulliparous patients and more fetuses presenting in breech position at the time of delivery. The overall composite neonatal morbidity occurred in 202 of the 271 (74.5%) deliveries and mortality occurred in 26 of the 271 (9.59%) deliveries. When adjusting for nulliparity, delivery year, and fetal presentation at the time of delivery, cesarean delivery was associated with a decreased risk for death in the delivery room or within 24 hours after delivery (adjusted risk ratio, 0.18; 95% confidence interval, 0.05–0.63; P=.03). Cesarean delivery was associated with an increased use of exogenous surfactant (adjusted risk ratio, 1.20; 95% confidence interval, 1.05–1.38; P=.01) and bag mask ventilation (adjusted risk ratio, 1.17; 95% confidence interval, 1.01–1.37; P=.03). In a secondary analysis that included only patients who received a complete course of steroids, there were no differences in the composite morbidity or mortality.


Cesarean delivery performed for standard obstetrical indications in cases of very preterm neonates is associated with a decreased risk for death in the delivery room or within 24 hours of delivery but is not associated with an improvement in the overall morbidity or mortality.