A new study published online in the British Medical Journal claims that babies born via C-section are at higher risk for certain health issues including diabetes, obesity and asthma. While there's no direct evidence that having a Caesarean leads to future health issues in babies, there is enough of a link that researchers are urging expecting mothers to discuss the potential future risks with their doctors, especially when vaginal birth is still an option.
According to lead researcher Dr. Jan Blustein, "It's a discussion that's important to have in view of the rising rate of C-sections." The study notes that C-section rates are on the rise in certain countries, including elective surgeries and moms who have already had one C-section who are encouraged by their doctor to have them again. In the United States, almost a third of all babies are delivered via C-section.
Blustein and her colleagues also discovered that 2.13 of every 1,000 C-section babies develop type 1 diabetes versus 1.79 per 1,000 infants delivered vaginally, and 9.5% of C-section babies develop asthma versus 7.9% for vaginal births, and 19.4% of them are affected by obesity versus just 15.8% for vaginal births. Those are some pretty compelling numbers.
While it's not clear exactly what part of delivering via C-section causes these potential long-term health issues, Blustein suspects it may be because those babies did not get healthy bacteria from their mothers that they would've received during a vaginal birth. Another theory involves babies not receiving hormones from the mother that she releases during active labor — something women don't get to experience when they have a scheduled C-section.
Irregardless of the reason, studies like this add to the conversation of whether doctors should be having more serious conversations with patients that are requesting an elective C-section and whether hospitals should be more open to a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).