In a review of studies conducted at the University of Edinburgh – and published in the journal PLOS One, researchers reviewed 80 studies and trials – one of the biggest pieces of analysis to date – on the health impacts of caesarean section delivery.
The researchers found that the risk of obesity for under children under five jumped dramatically by 59 per cent if the child had been delivered through a c-section. The children born by c-section were also 21 per cent more likely to develop allergies and asthma by the age of 12.
The review highlights the growing body of evidence showing how c-section deliveries affect the make up of the gut bacteria that colonise the infant at birth and make up the gut microbiome and influences the immune system. The researchers and health experts hope that the findings will help educate women over the risks to their child and help them decide whether to have an elective caesarean.
Professor Susan Wray, of the Harris Wellbeing Centre for Preterm Research at the University of Liverpool said: “The conclusions from this study are important. “This information will be useful to both women and those involved in their care, especially when contemplating a C-section for non-medical reasons.”
Rates [for c-sections]are now as high as 50% in parts of South America, China and the Middle East
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has previously warned of the ‘incessant increase’ of caesarean sections in Britain. An increase which is reflected around much of the world – with rates as high as 50% in parts of South America, China and the Middle East. 30 years ago this figure was 10% for c-section deliveries but has now risen to 25% in the UK- around 160,000 babies a year.
Dr Rachel Tribe, Reader of Women’s Health at King’s College London, said: “This systematic review and meta-analysis is a very useful contribution to our understanding of the ‘pros and cons’ of elective caesarean section.
“It provides a solid evidence to inform clinicians and parents about the potential impact on longer term health of babies born by caesarean section.”
Prof Andrew Shennan, Professor of Obstetrics at King’s College London, said: “The outcomes have a plausible mechanism which suggests causation in spite of the observational nature of most of the studies informing this review.
“Risks to future pregnancies were potentially serious, including an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths, so mothers may accept small risks to herself to reduce these risks to her potential future babies by avoiding unnecessary Caesarean sections.”