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C-Sections Linked to Childhood Obesity

Posted by on May. 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM
  • 29 Replies



Childhood Obesity Linked to Cesarean Deliveries

PHOTO: A new study finds that infants born via cesarean section have twice the risk of becoming obese later.
A new study finds that infants born via cesarean section have twice the risk of becoming obese later. (Getty Images)

May 24, 2012


Infants delivered via cesarean section have about twice the risk of becoming obese as infants delivered vaginally, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.


Researchers recruited more than 1,250 pregnant women from the Boston area and followed their children until the age of 3.


They found that at 3 years old, 15.7 percent of children delivered by C-section were already obese, while only 7.5 percent of children delivered vaginally were obese.


The mother's body mass index and the baby's weight at birth did not play a big role in predisposing children to obesity, the researchers explained. Previous research, however, has linked maternal obesity to obesity in their children.


Dr. Susanna Huh, lead author and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the findings still need to be confirmed in later studies, but they suggest that women considering having a C-section that isn't medically necessary should know that their children may be at higher risk for obesity.


"Almost one in three children are delivered by C-section in the U.S., and if cesarean delivery is a risk factor for obesity, this would be an important reason to avoid them if they aren 't necessary," Huh said.


But not all mothers who had elective cesareans would heed that advice.


Getty Images
A new study finds that infants born via... View Full Size
PHOTO: A new study finds that infants born via cesarean section have twice the risk of becoming obese later.
Getty Images
A new study finds that infants born via cesarean section have twice the risk of becoming obese later.
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Morgan Roberts of Wilton, Conn. opted for C-sections when she had both of her children, now 4 and 2. She went that route because the first time, she said, she was experiencing joint pain from Lyme disease. For her second child's birth, she wasn't having any medical problems, but just chose to have a C-section.


"They are literally the opposite end of the spectrum from obese," she told ABC News in an email. "As a matter of fact, I have to increase their calories as much as I can because they are superactive and actually below weight."


Roberts said even if she knew about this relationship between obesity and C-section deliveries, she would not have changed her mind. She believes that diet and exercise play a much bigger role in childhood obesity.


"Had all this research come out before I chose to have my C-section I would not have been swayed at all," she said. "I am a very active adult, (as well as my husband), and we strongly value eating well and engaging our children in a variety of activities."



How C-sections May Lead to Obesity Not Clear

The mechanism behind the relationship between C-sections and obesity is unknown, but Huh and her co-authors speculated there could be a few possible explanations.


"One possibility is that different modes of delivery may affect the bacterial communities established in the body at birth. This could affect obesity by affecting the absorption of nutrients from the diet, or the bacteria in the gut might interact with host cells in ways that promote obesity," she said.


"Another possible explanation is that hormones and protein signals released during labor may have an effect on the development of obesity," she added.


But Dr. Ann Budzak-Garza, a pediatrician with Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wis., said based on her experience as a physician, the findings are inexplicable.


"Our C-section rate at Gundersen is only about 20 percent, which is a lot lower than what's reported in the study," she said. "But the incidence of childhood obesity in La Crosse County is actually higher than in other parts of the country. One in three children is overweight or obese."


But she did say that if there is such a relationship, breastfeeding may play a role.


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by on May. 24, 2012 at 12:45 PM
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by on May. 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM

My c-section girl at 3 years old.....

"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification"  Romans 14:19

by Kandy on May. 24, 2012 at 1:08 PM

these are my c-section babies.

by Bronze Member on May. 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

My 3.5 year old delivered by c-section is a whopping 28 lbs...she is barely on the charts for weight. She is almost 40" tall. 


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by on May. 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM

I have a friend who had a c-section her kid is a yr younger then my son and about 4 times his size and not height wise. She saw this and called me to tell me that this explains why her kid is obese....NO it is because you feed your small child a whole family size box of mac n cheese for lunch plus soda, plus all kinds of other junk snack food all day everyday. The kid is really active though but no matter how active you are if you take in more calories then you burn off you will still gain weight. My kids eat some junk here and there they only really get play time outside on the weekends at their school but I don't let them gorge on crappy foods either. People need to take responsibility for their children's health and stop blaming other people.

by on May. 24, 2012 at 3:08 PM
Wow. I think it boils down to what you're feeding your kid, how active they are and genetics. I don't see how a c section would have anything to do with it.
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by on May. 24, 2012 at 3:24 PM

I see so, so many obese children these days and I'm quite sure not all of those mothers had C-sections.

A few weeks ago I was at lunch with friends at Applebee's when a couple and their child were seated in a booth next to us. The parents where not grossly overweight but their child was HUGE...I'm not a great  judge of age but would guess the kid was maybe 8? Before they had their meal the kid had a large shake...for the meal a large burger with fries and another shake...then after finishing his food began to pick from his mom's plate....I think it's more of this type of eating habits than C-sections causing children to be overweight.
by on May. 24, 2012 at 3:28 PM

i just cannot see how the method in which a baby is taken from the womb would have any impact on their future weight.  

by on May. 24, 2012 at 3:32 PM
Agreed. And genetics. I have one child whose weight we are watching and one is thin. Both were born by c-section.

Quoting Autumn22:

This. Is. Retarded. All of my children have been delivered by csection and not one of them are over weight. Childhood obesity is caused by *not just linked to!* not enough activity and too many calories. Simple as that.

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by on May. 24, 2012 at 4:24 PM
That doesn't make any sense.... There are way too many factors to make that connection legit.
by Susie on May. 24, 2012 at 4:27 PM
1 mom liked this

People are grasping at staws in the wrong places.  Kids are obese, because they eat like crap, eat too much, drink too much soda and juice, eat too much sugar, and do not exercise.  Its not from C sections. 

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