Babies born via cesarian section at an increased risk of becoming obese later in life than babies delivered vaginally, according to a recent study of more than 10,000 UK infants.
A research team led by Dr. Jan Blustein from the New York University of Medicine analyzed data from 10,219 born in the UK between 1991 and 1992. The children who were delivered by C-section were 83 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who were delivered vaginally. This was determined after other factors were taken into account, such as the mother’s weight and how long they were breastfed. Researchers also noted that children delivered by C-section were on average 2 oz lighter than their counterparts.
Blustein noted that, at 6 weeks old, C-section babies had already started to surpass children delivered vaginally. The children were retested at various points in their lives — ages three, 11, and 15 — and children born via cesarian section were consistently heavier than their peers. The link between C-section births and obesity was especially strong in children born to overweight mothers.
Blustein said women electively considering a C-section should be aware of the other risks associated with the surgery, such as future pregnancy complications, and higher chances of bladder or bowel injuries. She also said that studies haven’t been able to prove whether the C-section itself causes children to gain more weight later in life, or if there was another factor. Blustein specualted that the higher weight gain was linked to C-section babies not having any exposure to friendly bacteria present in the birth canal.
According to Teresa Ajslev, a researcher at the Institute of Preventive Medicine and a Ph.D. student at Copenhagen University, said there may be a specific type of bacteria that is protective. There could also be a bacteria imbalance that disrupts intestinal function in a way that makes it easier for a child to gain weight.
Still, Blustein points out that normal-weight mothers who had C-sections didn’t have the same link to obesity as overweight or obese mothers.
The study was published in the May 14 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.