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Research Shows C-Section Births Linked to Chronic Health Problems

pregnant womanA new study may give expectant mothers pause before scheduling an elective Cesarean section delivery. According to research published in the British Medical Journal on June 10, 2015, babies born via C-section may be at a greater risk of developing chronic health problems as adults.  Professors Jianmeng Liu and Jan Blustein analyzed evidence suggesting that these children were more likely to suffer from Type 1 diabetes, obesity and asthma later in life compared to babies born vaginally.

Considering that nearly one third of all babies in the United States are delivered by Cesarean section, this recent research is particularly relevant to couples starting a family. Along with the risks outlined by the researchers, pregnant women should also be aware of potential consequences of C-section mistakes, which can also lead to serious birth trauma and newborn injury.

Asthma, diabetes and obesity linked to C-sections

In situations where a vaginal childbirth isn’t progressing well, or labor is complicated by shoulder dystocia, Cesarean section deliveries can be life-saving for both mother and child. But over the past twenty years, many nations have reported a significant spike in C-sections, raising concerns about unnecessarily high rates.

Dr. Jianmen Liu of Peking University and Dr. Jan Blustein of New York University’s School of Medicine performed a meta-analysis of prior studies that revealed a strong tie between C-sections and chronic health ailments. The professors discovered at least 20 studies that connect Type 1 diabetes with Cesarean deliveries, and another 23 that linked asthma with C-sections.

Obesity, which predisposes patients to heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, may also be associated with the method of delivery, say Dr. Liu and Blustein.  The researchers found that babies born via C-section had a 19.4 percent childhood obesity rate versus 15.8 percent in those who were delivered vaginally.

The research team noted that more studies were warranted on the subject, and “getting definitive answers will take many years of further research. In the interim, we must make decisions based on the evidence that we have. To me, that evidence says that it is reasonable to believe that cesarean has the potential for long-term adverse health consequences for children.”

Dr. Blustein and Dr. Liu want to start a dialogue about the possible risks of C-section deliveries in the scope of long-term child health.

“People have always known the consequences of vaginal delivery — brain damage, cerebral palsy, shoulder dystocia — but there is not much discussion of the long-term downsides of cesarean delivery,” Dr. Blustein told CBS News.

C-section overuse remains a nationwide concern

In America, over 32 percent of women deliver their newborns by Cesarean section, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This figure is much higher than the WHO’s target 10 to 15 percent for “medically necessary C-sections.” At some point in the future, Dr. Blustein and Dr. Liu hope that their findings may affect C-section guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Cesarean section deliveries, even under optimal conditions, have their own risks. When performed too late, or mistakes are made, the possibility of serious birth trauma increases. In situations where medical negligence was to blame, parents may turn to the courts for legal compensation.

A lawsuit alleging birth injury malpractice may argue that doctors failed to perform a medically necessary C-section on time, missed signs of fetal distress, or failed to properly manage labor complications.

  1. CBS News, C-section births linked to long-term child health problems

  2. Mayo Clinic, C-section risks

  3. American Pregnancy Association, Risks of a Cesarean

  4. Science Daily, Do Newborns Delivered by C-Section Face Higher Risk of Chronic Health Problems Later in Life?