C-section and obesity link – what’s the story?

Researchers suggest that babies born by c-section could be twice as likely to be obese by age 3

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A study from the US, reported this week, suggests that babies born by caesarean have double the chance of childhood obesity than those born vaginally.

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The study, by Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts and published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, surveyed 1,255 pairs of mums and children born between 1999 and 2002, BBC News reports.

One in four of the children (that’s around 300) were born by c-section and researchers found that nearly 16% of these were obese by the age of 3, compared to 7.5% of those born vaginally, reports The Independent.

According to the BBC, the researchers also found that the mums who delivered by c-section tended to weigh more than those delivering vaginally, but speculated that another explanation for the increased obesity risk could be the difference in gut bacteria acquired at birth between the two methods of delivery.

The authors of the study said, “Evidence is building and suggests that unnecessary Caesarean sections may have detrimental effects in the short and long term for the women and child.” They admitted that further research was needed to confirm the findings.

Patrick O’Brien, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said, “This is an interesting study, but small. It needs to be replicated in a bigger sample.”

In the UK, 23% of births are by caesarean.  NHS figures report 10% of these are planned and 15% are emergency c-sections. According to the Guardian, rates have doubled in recent years.

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