Previous research has tied c-sections to a variety of health conditions affecting children, including asthma, allergies and diabetes. However, after reviewing nine different birth studies, researchers are now tying cesarean births to obesity and weight gain in children and adults.
Even though the findings don’t point to c-sections as the root cause of weight gain in children, they do draw a pretty clear link between babies delivered by c-section and the likelihood that they will be heavy or obese as children and adults—compared to babies delivered vaginally.
The research team examined the study results of more than 200,000 people and found that:
- Adults born via c-section were 50-percent more likely to be obese than those born vaginally.
- Childhood obesity was 40-percent more prevalent in children delivered by c-section compared vs. those born vaginally.
“It’s not clear why c-section births are tied to a better chance of being heavy. [However] the potential health burden of obesity and other diseases associated with c-section births should not be neglected…and given the potential negative impacts on children… elective c-section should be somewhat avoided, where possible,” says Dr. Jianmeng Liu, study co-author and professor at Peking University Health Science Center in China.
Liu points to two possible explanations:
- Firstly, c-sections are linked to lower concentration in the umbilical cord of a hormone that regulates weight and with a reduced rate of breastfeeding—both of which are reported to be associated with an increased risk of later obesity.
- Secondly, babies born vaginally are exposed to a bacteria that better manages food processing and storage.