Caesarean Births May Increase Obesity Rates, How True Is This?

First Posted: Sep 09, 2016 07:02 AM EDT

A new study by JAMA Pediatrics says that babies born via Caesarean section are at higher risk of becoming obese than babies born vaginally. The reason for this is that babies born via caesarean section fail to get exposed to the healthy gut bacteria present in the vagina that plays a huge role in regular diet and metabolism as the babies grow.

The study included 22,000 babies who were monitored into adulthood, as reported by The Telegraph. The researchers clarified that there are also other factors that may contribute to obesity of the child like the diet of the mother, health complications like diabetes during pregnancy, and milk preference - formula or breast. It was observed that babies born via caesarean are less likely to be breastfed, thus leading to increasing obesity because infant milk highly affects children's diet in the future.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing trend of caesarean deliveries all over the world. In the UK, for example, 26 percent of babies are born via Caesarean section - an operation that requires cutting the tummy of the mother to bring the baby out of the womb. The Royal College of Midwives testified that the rates are steadily increasing over the past couple of years.

Another study in Harvard Medical School showed that babies delivered via caesarean section are 15 percent more likely to be obese as they grow. This study accounted for all other necessary factors like mother's weight, age and health issues (if there is during pregnancy).

To compare babies born via caesarean section to those born vaginally, another study monitored siblings and found that there is a 64 percent chance that C-section babies will be obese than their vaginally-born sibling.

The researchers could not thoroughly explain the association of delivery to obesity but the best guess was the difference in gastrointestinal microbiota (healthy gut bacteria) could have a huge effect. "Overall, the literature surrounding this area suggests that there may be a link between Caesarean section and obesity. However, this link is neither fully proven nor understood.," said Dr. Simon Cork, a research associate in the Department of Investigative Medicine at Imperial College London.

The President of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health Prof Neena Modi said there is the need to deepen the study to identify whether the link between Caesarean birth and obesity is true. She added, "Caesarean section can be life-saving for women and their babies. However, many women are now considering Caesarean section where there is no medical indication."

Women should be well informed before they make these irreversible decisions. "It is important that they are told about the possibility of increased risk of obesity in their children, to help them make an informed birth choice. It is important that they are told about the possibility of increased risk of obesity in their children, to help them make an informed birth choice," Modi ended.

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