Children delivered via Caesarean section have been found to be twice as likely to become obese than children delivered naturally.1 A team of American researchers, from the Children's Hospital Boston, Massachusetts, believe that the gut microbiota acquired at birth may explain the link. Previous studies have found that children delivered via C-section have larger populations of firmicutes bacteria, a trait also found in obese people from other studies.2

baby sleeping
newborn sleeping

This latest study, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, observed 1,255 pairs of mother and child from the Boston, Massachusetts area from 1999-2002. Each baby was weighed at birth and then again at three years of age. The results showed that 15.7% of those delivered via Caesarean had become obese. This figure dropped to just 7.5% in those delivered by vaginal birth. Lead researcher, Dr. Susanna Huh, commented that their findings should lead to pregnant women, who are considering unnecessary Caesarean sections, being warned about the possible health implications for their children. "An association between Caesarean birth and increased risk of childhood obesity would provide an important rationale to avoid non-medically indicated Caesarean...their children may have a higher risk of obesity." Other studies have also linked Caesaren birth to an increased risk of developing other health conditions such as asthma or allergic rhinitis.

Sue Macdonald, education and research manager at the Royal College of Midwives, also commented on the recent findings, "Evidence is building and suggests unnecessary Caesarean sections may have detrimental effects in the short and long term for the woman and the child."

1. Huh, S. et al. (2012) Delivery by caesarean section and risk of obesity in preschool age children: a prospective cohort study. Arch. Dis. Child. 10. 1136.

2. Ley, R. E. et al (2005) Obesity alters gut microbioal ecology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102: 31. 11070-75.

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