New Link Between C-Sections and Childhood Obesity


A new study indicates that children delivered via c-section of overweight or obese mothers are nearly 5 times more likely to be as risk for childhood obesity – and the make up of gut bacteria is partly to blame.

Scientists have long believed that childhood obesity is linked to overweight or obese mothers however this new research study published in JAMA Pediatrics indicates the effect of cesarean section birth delivery on the child’s risk of developing obesity.

The team of researchers found a link between c-sections and a certain family of bacteria, resulting in higher childhood obesity risk.

When overweight women deliver vaginally, the risk of childhood obesity in their children was three times higher than normal.  However when children are delivered via c-section of overweight or obese mothers the risk of childhood obesity is nearly 5 times greater.

Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, the University of Alberta investigator who led the study points out the association between c-sections, maternal obesity, and overweight children.

“We know that maternal overweight is linked to overweight in children, what our study showed is that both the type of infant delivery — vaginal birth versus cesarean section birth — and changes in gut bacteria are also involved.”

When a woman has a c-section, the risk of obesity jumps to up to five times higher than normal.

In previous research, a connection has been made between an infant’s gut bacteria and delivery method. So researchers wanted to explore further.

The study of 930 mothers and their infants used DNA sequencing to identify the types and quantities of bacteria in the infants’ stool.

What they discovered is fascinating. Dr. Hein Min Tun,  the study’s first author says, “We found that an abundance of a family of bacteria called Lachnospiracae does in fact influence the relationship between maternal weight and child weight following vaginal and cesarean birth.” Infants who were born to obese mothers via c-section had more of this particular bacteria in their gut.

To investigate further, Kozyrskyj and her research team studied over 930 mothers and their infants participating in AllerGen’s CHILD Study, a national population-based birth cohort. DNA sequencing techniques performed in the laboratories of Drs James Scott and David Guttman at the University of Toronto provided information on the types and quantity of bacteria present in the infants’ stool. An older analysis method not used in microbiome analyses — sequential mediation — was employed. The children’s weights were assessed at one and three years of age.

“Given that infant overweight and obesity are a major public health problem, our results reinforce increasing concerns over rising cesarean deliveries and affirm the role of the gut microbiota as a ‘super organ’ with diverse roles in health and disease,” added Kozyrskyj.



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