About one in ten pregnancies leads to complications that warrant a baby being delivered by c-section. In some states however, about 40% of all children are born this way – often as a result false beliefs. Unfortunately there are negative side effects of this development.
One of the main problems of a c-section is that it prevents infants from picking up, from their mother’s vaginas, important bacteria that would usually constitute a newborn’s normal gut flora.
In total there are three main known problems:
- They are more susceptible to allergies — whereby the immune system responds to inappropriate stimuli, such as nut proteins
- They are at a higher risk of autoimmune diseases — a situation where the immune system attacks body cells, as happens in type-1 diabetes
- They are also at a higher risk of obesity, as they don’t get the important gut bacteria that help them regulate their diet later in life.
C-section and obesity: an experiment on mice
To find out more about the effects of c-section and obesity, an expert at New York University School of Medicine conducted an experiment with mice. She allowed some pregnant mice to deliver naturally while performing an antibiotic-free cesarean section on others.
She then raised the pups in the same conditions. Her 13 pregnant females produced 69 offspring, 35 of which were born naturally and the other 34 were delivered by cesarean. At 15 weeks of age, pups that had been delivered naturally weighed an average of 39 grams while their cesarean-delivered kins averaged 45 grams.
The scientists then examined the gut bacteria of her mice and found that those born naturally had a normal mixture while those born via cesarean section lacked Bacteroides, Ruminococcaceae, and Clostridiales. All these groups are associated with lean bodies. Therefore, It appears that cesarean babies don’t get the necessary bacteria that are passed from the mother’s vagina to the baby during delivery.
How to solve the problem?
There is now an experiment in progress, taking a swab of the mother’s vagina and wiping it on an infant’s face shortly after birth by cesarean, to try to pass on the relevant bugs. Though it might sound distasteful, if it works, it will give cesarean babies a better start in life.
- Statement on Caesarean Section Rates, World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/maternal_perinatal_health/cs-statement/en/)
- More Evidence for a Link Between Caesarean Sections and Obesity, The Economist (https://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21730131-bugs-picked-up-birth-are-good-you-more-evidence-link-between)
- Mice Delivered by C-Section Gain More Weight Than Those Delivered Naturally, NYU Langone Health (https://nyulangone.org/press-releases/mice-delivered-by-c-section-gain-more-weight-than-those-delivered-naturally)