Obesity and C-section Correlation Debunked

The relationship between children being delivered by C-section and their later development of obesity has been subject to much research that has provided contradictory findings. Here we consider the findings from a longitudinal study that is likely to put the debate to rest. If you would like to read an authoratative previous study then we recommend this one from the BMJ.

 The main background to this research appears to be the findings that about one third of women in US deliver via C-section and that rate is comparable to the rate of childhood obesity. While some studies have supported the association between these factors, others have not. In addition to that, one of the few reasons for suggesting a causal link has been to argue that children that are born vaginally are exposed to protective bacteria in the birth canal. However, this has never been substantiated by other findings.

The current study, which was published in Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, was a longitudinal study that followed up children and their mothers for 21 years. A total of 2625 babies were included in the study, whose type of delivery was included. In addition to that, the offspring were given physical assessments at various stages of the study. The researchers also measured maternal factors that could have affected the development of the infant or its delivery, such as age, obesity status, hypertensive disorder during pregnancy and smoking status during pregnancy. The key findings did not find any significant differences in weight or waist circumference between individuals that had been born via caesarean section or vaginal delivery, Overall, a third of the sample were overweight or obese at the age of 21. Specifically, 21.5% of the infants were overweight and 12.4% were classified as obese. However, the researchers did not find that this related to their mothers having c-section delivery.

This study was carried out for a long period of time and benefited from including factors that may have led to alternative explanations. It appears that their findings did not find one clear link between an individuals’ development of obesity and factors relating to their pre-natal and post- natal circumstances. Perhaps this can be explained by the reasoning that obesity is a complex issue that develops through the interaction of various factors, from genetic vulnerability to lack of nutritious food. 

An abstract of the recent study can be read here.