cesarean section with baby

Researchers have concluded, based on a study in Archives of Disease in Childhood that c-section deliveries can cause an increased risk of childhood obesity. The difference in toddler weight was not just statistically significant, it was profound.

What is the real weight difference?

Some clinical studies report a statistically significant change between two groups – but that change, though measurable, is so minute that there is no real life implication. That was not the case in this study, however. Researchers studied more than 1,200 infants with about 280 born by cesarean section. The infants were tracked for three years at which time BMI measurements were taken. About 7.5-percent of the toddlers born vaginally fell into the obese BMI range. Nearly 16-percent of the children born via c-section were considered obese. That means infants born via c-section could be more than twice as likely to suffer from childhood obesity as infants born vaginally.

Why are c-section toddlers heavier?

Much of the increased risk of childhood obesity is associated with maternal weight – not the c-section. Many women who deliver via c-section are overweight or obese; this increases the risk of childhood obesity independent of delivery method. However, when researchers took maternal weight into consideration, there was still an increase in the risk of obesity in childhood, though researchers cannot pinpoint the exact cause. Some believe vaginal delivery activates or releases bacteria that improves metabolism. If a c-section delivery occurs, the bacteria are not released.

Are c-sections to blame for childhood obesity?

Currently, c-sections cannot be held to blame for childhood obesity. Additional research is needed to prove a definitive connection.

Should c-sections be avoided?

There are times when pregnant women seek c-sections for personal reasons and times when the procedure is considered medically necessary. According to Dr. Amos Grunebaum, obstetrician and gynecologist with New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the choice is more about risk. “When you have an indication for a C-section, the risk of not doing so is so high. Having a baby with a potential future risk of obesity is not a good enough reason to not do one.” Grunebaum plans on adding obesity to the possible risks associated with c-sections when discussing the procedure with future patients. If other obstetricians choose to do the same, it could reduce the number of requested c-sections performed each year. Currently, up to 18 percent of c-section deliveries are not medically necessary.

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