A new study has concluded that babies delivered via Caesarean section grow up to be heavier in their adolescent years compared with babies delivered vaginally. This study of 10,000 children in the UK backs up findings of 9 previous studies, all linking child obesity with C-sections.
The study’s participants were babies born in Avon, UK in 1991 and 1992. The study followed them through the age of 15. About 9 percent of the participants were delivered using C-section.
In the United States Caesarean sections are used with increasing regularity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 of every 3 births in 2010 were C-sections, up from 1 in every 5 in 1996. As often as they are used, no one really knows for certain what kind of effect they have on the kids, if any. Dr. Jan Blustein, who led the study at New York University School of Medicine, says regarding C-sections that “there may be long-term consequences to children that we don’t know about.”
Blustein added that women who are having a C-section for medical reasons should not factor the link to obesity into their decision, saying that the risk is not large. However, she thinks that women who are choosing to have an elective C-section should know all potential risks the procedure may carry for themselves and their child.
While babies delivered via C-section start off slightly smaller than their vaginally-delivered cohorts, that changes once the baby is six weeks old. The study found that, at that point, babies born via C-section weighed in heavier than the vaginally-delivered babies at nearly every check-in, especially the babies that were born to overweight mothers.
Remember though, correlation does not equal causation. According to Bluestein, her studies have not found proof that C-sections directly cause child obesity. Still, she does have a hypothesis, suggesting it may have something to do with babies missing exposure to positive intestinal bacteria when born through C-section. If that is true, then it will be possible to identify those bacteria and give a does of them to C-section babies.
It is also possible, says Bluestein, that bacteria have nothing to do with the C-section-obesity link, noting that the link was tenuous with children born to mothers of healthy weight. It is possible that the children born to overweight mothers through C-section would have been obese even if they had been born vaginally.
With evidence supporting several different assumptions, the case is definitely not closed on this issue.