Good news: Research out of Australia, found that a child's health problems aren't a direct result of Caesarian births. But should you still avoid one if you can?
As if mom guilt wasn't bad enough, long-standing research has shown that children born via cesarean section were more prone to serious health problems than children who were born vaginally. But a new study from researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, disputes this, discovering that it isn't necessarily the C-section that's to blame for a child's bad health.
An about-face on evidence
Researchers studied 5,100 children and found that there were few consistencies between health problems in children born via cesarean, instead finding that conditions like childhood obesity were more likely in those born to obese mothers.
"When we took into account factors related to birth, social disadvantage, maternal weight and breastfeeding, we found few associations between cesarean birth and child outcomes," says lead researcher Elizabeth Westrupp, Ph.D., a research fellow in the School of Nursing at La Trobe University.
Initially the researchers found that children born via cesarean were more likely to have a medical condition by their toddler years, use prescribed medications by 6 or 7 and weigh more by age 9. However, it turns out this had more to do with the mother's weight than her method of delivery. C-section births were actually linked to better overall health by age 2 or 3 and better social skills later in childhood.
Why you still want to avoid a C-section
While this is good news for moms who have to go under the knife to give birth, C-sections should still only be performed when medically necessary, since the procedure puts mothers at risk. "If you make a hole into someone's body all sorts of bad things can happen," says Dr. Aaron Caughey, M.D., chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., adding that in some cases, however, "it is absolutely lifesaving for both the baby and the mother."
Ultimately, mothers should relax about the outcome of their baby when faced with a change in her birth plan. "This study suggests that some of the previously reported associations between birth by cesarean delivery and adverse childhood health outcomes may be explained by influences other than mode of birth," Westrupp says. "These findings should be reassuring to women and their doctors."