Infants delivered by cesarean more obese in childhood

By Sheryl Kay • Published: September 6th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Cesarean-section births have become much more commonplace during the past 30 years, as have the complications associated with them, including higher risks of asthma in children and childhood-onset diabetes.

Now, research shows the procedure may also be linked to childhood obesity.

The findings, just published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, were gleaned from a study involving more than twelve-hundred pairs of moms and their newborns. Researchers began assessing the mothers at week 22 of their pregnancies and then followed up by evaluating the height and weight of the offspring at birth, at 6 months and also at age 3. Of the total number of deliveries, almost one-quarter were via C-section, while the remaining three-quarters were vaginal births.

On average, the moms who delivered via cesarean weighed more than the women who delivered vaginally. Still, even after taking that observation into account, as well as other factors that could have altered the results, the researchers found that almost 16 percent of the children delivered via c-section were obese by 3 years old. Among children born through vaginal delivery, only 8 percent were obese at 3. The little ones delivered by C-section also tended to have a higher body mass index.

The study did not pinpoint a definitive cause for these differences, but the investigators suggest the disparities might be linked to gut bacteria that babies acquire at birth. The composition of gut bacteria in babies varies depending on how they were delivered and may have long-term effects on digestion and weight gain.

Many cesarean sections are medically necessary and often save babies’ lives. But if you’re thinking of planning a C-section for convenience, you may want to reconsider and base your decision on your and your baby’s health instead.