A new study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood has linked childhood obesity to cesarean sections.
The Boston-based study followed 1,250 pregnant women from the time of conception through the third birthday of their children. The study found that 15.7 percent of children delivered by cesarean section had developed childhood obesity while only 7.5 percent of children delivered vaginally were considered obese.
The study examined the body mass index (BMI) of the mother and the weight of the baby at the time of birth and found that these two indicators did not play a large role in predisposing each child to obesity.
Lead author Dr. Susanna Huh, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that the findings will still need to be confirmed and that further studies will need to be conducted. In the meantime, she urges women who can deliver vaginally to take that route.
According to Huh, “Almost one in three children are delivered by C-section in the U.S., and if cesarean delivery is a risk factor for obesity, this would be an important reason to avoid them if they aren’t necessary.”
While the reason that the relationship between cesarean sections and childhood obesity exists is still unclear, researchers have a few theories, which were explained to ABC News:
“One possibility is that different modes of delivery may affect the bacterial communities established in the body at birth. This could affect obesity by affecting the absorption of nutrients from the diet, or the bacteria in the gut might interact with host cells in ways that promote obesity,” she said.
“Another possible explanation is that hormones and protein signals released during labor may have an effect on the development of obesity.”
The findings are hardly conclusive, as Dr. Ann Budzak-Garza, a pediatrician with Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, points out, “Our C-section rate at Gundersen is only about 20 percent, which is a lot lower than what’s reported in the study,” she said. “But the incidence of childhood obesity in La Crosse County is actually higher than in other parts of the country. One in three children is overweight or obese.”
Childhood obesity linked to cesarean deliveries: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/cesarean-delivery-linked-childhood-obesity/story?id=16413001#.T75m8UVYv3Q
Cesarean Section: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cesarian_the_moment_of_birth.jpg