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Cesarean Birth Linked to Higher Risk of Obesity, Asthma, and Diabetes

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Brooke Shroyer2 years ago

According to Reuters, recent studies discovered that cesarean births could possibly lead to long-term health complications such as obesity, asthma, and diabetes.

Research on Cesarean Births

Cesarean births are often times the last resort for a mother when there are certain complications with the delivery.  Commonly known as C-sections, they prevent dangerous risks to both the mother and baby

The study cannot prove that cesarean births definitely lead to these health problems; however, the connection between these health problems and cesarean births is strong enough to raise concerns. 

The World Health Organization says that only 15 percent of births should be cesarean.  This percentage covers the incidences of surgical procedures for fetal complications such as prolonged labor or breech babies. 

The United States, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Italy have rates of C-sections that are more than double what World Health Organization recommends.  Blustein and Jianmeng Liu of the Institute of Reproductive and Child Health in Beijing wrote that these high rates may be from completely elective C-sections. 

Possible Reason for Elevated C-Section Rates

The reasons as to why C-sections lead to these health problems are not particularly clear.  However, there is a theory among studies that babies collect good bacteria passing through the birth canal that protect the babies against diseases. Blustein claims that labor-induced hormones passed on to the baby also help in reducing any risks. 

While the studies did not have enough evidence for scientists to explain the influential characteristics of mothers that may pose risks in cesarean births, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the U.K. are encouraged to incorporate these rising concerns into the birth procedures.  ACOG reduced the prevalence of C-sections with the introduction of new guidelines and regulations. 

ACOG president Dr. Mark DeFrancesco stated in an email, “While cesarean deliveries can be life-saving for both mother and baby, cesareans can also lead to short-term and long-term complications for both.”  He also claims that more evidence is required to prove whether or not C-sections alone pose health concerns or other factors increasing risks for long-term health concerns. 

Dr. Susan Hellerstein, an obstetrician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston claims, “We should be having a conversation with patients about the risk when they are considering a truly elective C-section.”

Statistics of Cesarean Births
  • With past research, they found 20 studies that linked cesarean births to type 1 diabetes in children.
  • 23 studies linked C-sections to asthma
  • 9 studies linked to obesity
  • 2.13 of every 1,000 C-sections lead to type 1 diabetes in the babies
  • Only 1.79 of every 1,000 vaginal births lead to type 1 diabetes in the babies
  • 9.5 percent of babies delivered by C-section acquire asthma
  • Only 7.9 percent of babies delivered vaginally develop asthma
  • 19.4 percent of C-section babies develop obesity
  • 15.8 percent of babies born vaginally develop obesity


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