Researchers say that babies born via c-section face double the risk of obesity. Photo via Joanie49 at SXC Photo
A new study published Wednesday by Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that babies born by Caesarean section are twice as likely to be obese by age 3 as infants delivered vaginally.
In the United States, about one in three babies is born via C-section, and one in three kids is overweight or obese, reports MSN Health.
“Women who may be considering a C-section in the absence of a medical indication should be counseled that their children may have a higher risk of obesity,” said study author Dr. Susanna Huh, director of the growth and nutrition program at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Researchers say that between 4 percent and 18 percent of C-sections in the United States are performed at the mother’s request, and that babies born via C-section have more pulmonary problems and are more likely to wind up in the intensive-care unit. The study’s authors also stated that Caesarean birth is also known to raise the risk of childhood asthma and allergies.
The study observed over 1,250 pairs of mothers and babies admitted to Massachusetts hospitals over a period of three years. All of the mothers that participated in the study joined before they were 22 weeks pregnant. One fourth of the babies born were born via C-section, the rest were delivered vaginally.
The babies were measured and weighed at birth, age 6-months and then again at age 3.
After the researchers took into account obesity in the mother and other factors such as high birthweight or the length of time the mother breastfed, which are known to increase the risk of childhood obesity, they found almost 16 percent of children delivered by C-section were obese by the age of three compared with 7.5 percent of those born vaginally.
Researchers concluded that infants born surgically are not exposed to certain beneficial bacteria that babies born vaginally encounter during delivery, and because of that the bodies of C-section babies take longer to accumulate this bacteria in their guts that boost the body’s metabolism.
“We speculate that the different modes of delivery may influence the bacteria in the gut at birth, and it is possible that gut bacteria may influence obesity by affecting the calories and nutrients absorbed from diet,” Huh said. The authors also noted that bacteria also may stimulate cells in a way that boosts insulin resistance, inflammation and fat, reports MSN Health.
Researchers say that another possibility is that some of the hormones released during labor may influence obesity development, and that further research is needed to confirm the findings and explore the underlying mechanisms for the association between C-section deliveries and childhood obesity.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control data showing that nearly a third (32 percent) of births in the U.S. in 2007 were by c-section, up from 20.7 percent in 1996.
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