Babies born by caesarean section may be more likely to be fat as adults.
A recent review of the literature found that the odds of overweight and obesity were 20 percent greater in these types of births than those delivered vaginally. The 2014 study appears here in PLOS ONE.
Earlier research in Brazil based on data on a group followed from 1978 and reported in 2011, also found obesity higher in the surgical group than in the labor-intensive birth group. (15% vs 10%).
Microbes may be the difference. A mother’s unique set imprints the baby as it emerges through the birth canal. But if the newborn takes a shortcut out of the tummy as in a caesarean section, it misses out on the magic and instead mops up the bacteria of the doctor or nurse or whoever else is working the room. Certain microbes may lead to obesity by harvesting more energy from food, making more fat cells and by triggering inflammation. Germ warfare indeed.
C-sections disturb the natural order.
Now compare obesity rates with caesarean section numbers. Both have soared in the last few decades, nearly in tandem. Rates have nearly doubled for both in some countries over that time period.
One in three mothers in the United States now gives birth this way.
In China, an astonishing 60% are delivered surgically while Brazil posts a 47% rate, according to recent reports.
The World Health Organization recommends that only 15% of births be caesarean; it should be done only when mother or child is at risk with complications. Too often, they are performed as a convenience for the mother or doctor, with little thought to the implications of the choice. The miracle of a birth of a new being produced by the perfect storm of biological and hormonal changes deserves better. Just because we can make an appointment on our smartphones for a C-section as easily as a pedicure, doesn’t mean we’re getting smarter.
The fallout from doing so may show up on the scales years later, making good health elusive.