What Research Says About C-Sections and How To Mitigate Negative Effects
C-Sections are a revolutionary medical procedure that have saved many women’s and babies’ lives. C-Sections are an important emergency tool, however, C-Sections should only be used as a life saving tool and not regularly used by physicians as a way to control birth or as an alternative to vaginal birth.
“Nearly a third of childbirths in America happened by cesarean section in 2017, but whether a woman has a C-section may have more to do with where she gives birth than her health or that of her baby.”https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/slideshows/c-section-rates-are-highest-in-these-states
Although some may feel C-Sections are a better choice because they are more controlled than vaginal birth, C-Sections can have a myriad of consequences for both mom and baby.
Not only can more medical issues occur for mom such as hemorrhage, infection, and blood clots, C-Sections can also have a lasting impact on baby’s health and development.
“Research had shown various associations between cesarean delivery and long-term health problems, including higher rates of obesity and asthma in children.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/well/family/autism-c-section.html
Despite the research showing the negative impact on both moms and babies, C-Section rates remain high. Some doctors continue to push mothers to schedule a C-section merely because they are near their due date or because it is more convenient.
“Rates of cesarean deliveries have increased despite warnings from WHO that it should only be used in life-threatening cases due to risk of complications.”https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cesarean-section-complication-risk-rises-mother-s-age-study-finds-n993611
It’s important as mothers that we are aware and educated about the possible effects of a C-section so we can make an educated decision when a doctor suggests a c-section, whether it be continuing with a C-section, getting a second opinion, or changing doctors.
Risks For Baby
“Studies have reported negative health outcomes in offspring born via cesarean delivery, including obesity, allergy, asthma, type 1 diabetes, and acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2749054#225229759
Asthma and Allergies
“Cesarean section rather than vaginal deliveries may raise the risk of childhood asthma and allergies by interfering with the child’s immune system development”https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20080521/c-section-tied-to-childhood-asthma
“The report found that infants delivered by C-section were at more than double the risk of developing food-borne allergies and asthma by their third birthdays than babies born vaginally.”https://beta.ctvnews.ca/national/health/2019/4/19/1_4387238.html
Autism and ADHD
“Birth by cesarean section was associated with a 33 percent higher risk of autism and a 17 percent higher risk of attention deficit disorder.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/well/family/autism-c-section.html
“Even when accounting for all the known risk factors, it was found that children delivered by C-section were 20% more likely to have type 1 diabetes than those delivered vaginally.”https://defeatdiabetes.org/c-section-delivery-increases-risk-type-1-diabetes/
Decreased Breastfeeding Success
“Women who had a cesarean delivery showed a lower rate of exclusive breastfeeding and any breastfeeding than those who had a vaginal delivery. In addition, cesarean delivery was related with using formula in the hospital and delayed breastfeeding initiation.”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29365288/
Risks For Mom
“Women who had C-sections were 80 percent more likely to have complications than those who delivered vaginally” even when controlled for pre-existing health issues or complications.”https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/cesarean-section-complication-risk-rises-mother-s-age-study-finds-n993611
What If I Need An Emergency C-Section?
In the case an emergency C-section is needed or you choose to go through with a C-section when suggested by a doctor, there are a few ways you can mitigate the potential negative effects. According to research, there seem to be a few key factors that cause the negative health effects to babies born via c-section. A primary factor is babies receiving moms’ microbiome by going through the vaginal canal. An alternative that can be used when a c-section occurs is vaginal seeding.
“Experts have long suspected that bacteria passed from mother to baby during vaginal birth – a process known as “microbiome seeding” – could play a role in protecting children.”https://beta.ctvnews.ca/national/health/2019/4/19/1_4387238.html
Vaginal seeding, also known as microbirthing, is the practice of using a cotton swab to transfer mom’s vaginal fluids to baby’s mouth, nose, and eyes in an attempt to transfer mom’s vaginal bacterial flora to baby. While there is little research surrounding vaginal seeding since it is a new practice, the only risk of attempting vaginal seeding is if a mother has a vaginal infection or STD. Otherwise, baby is simply being exposed to the fluids they would have been exposed to had they experienced a vaginal birth.
Another key factor is breastfeeding. It is often hypothesized that the lower rate of breastfeeding among c-section mothers plays a role in the negative effects correlated with c-sections such as obesity, allergies, and Type 1 diabetes since breastfeeding has been found to protect against all of these issues as well as other illnesses and disorders.
“There are many health benefits to your child from breastfeeding, including prevention of infections such as ear infections, diarrhea, and other bacterial and viral infections. Research also suggests that breastfeeding may help protect against diabetes and some cancers.”https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1107563
Whatever choices you make, it’s important to make the decisions knowing the facts and choosing the best direction for your family. I hope this helps empower mothers to make the best choices they can and feel informed when being their own and their baby’s advocate.