A new study has shown that babies born through cesarean section could be more vulnerable to chronic health problems such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.
Lead study author Dr. Jan Blustein said although the study doesn't prove that C-sections won't cause medical issues later in life, the link is strong enough that mothers should discuss the risk involved with their doctors especially where natural delivery may be possible.
In the research analysis, they found 20 studies linking C-sections to childhood type 1 diabetes, 23 studies connecting surgical deliveries to asthma and 9 suggesting a tie to obesity.
The study also found that in the US, where about one third of deliveries are by C-section, 2.13 of every 1,000 babies born this way develop type 1 diabetes, compared with 1.79 per 1,000 infants delivered vaginally.
Obesity develops in 19.4% of children delivered by C-section, compared with just 15.8% for natural births.
Blustein said while it was still unclear why exactly C-sections might lead to chronic health problems, one prevailing theory is that women may pass “good” bacteria to babies during a vaginal delivery that protects against disease.
She also said another possibility is that hormones released during labor might play a role in minimizing risk.
The World Health Organization stipulates that ideally, no more than 15% of deliveries should be C-sections as that’s the approximate proportion of births that require surgical intervention to protect the mother or infant in situations such as prolonged labor, fetal distress or a breech baby.
The study however cautioned that most studies didn't have enough information to consider factors like characteristics of the mother that might precipitate C-section delivery being linked to the child’s later health problems.
But based on the mounting evidence linking C-sections to chronic health problems, the study recommended that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence revise practice guidelines to include the long-term risk of chronic disease.