(BOSTON) — Infants delivered via cesarean section have about twice the risk of becoming obese as infants delivered vaginally, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Researchers recruited more than 1,250 pregnant women from the Boston area and followed their children until the age of 3.
They found that at age three, 15.7 percent of children delivered by C-section were already obese, while only 7.5 percent of children delivered vaginally were obese.
The mother’s body mass index and the baby’s weight at birth did not play a big role in predisposing children to obesity, the researchers explained. Previous research, however, has linked maternal obesity to obesity in their children.
Dr. Susanna Huh, lead author and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the findings still need to be confirmed in later studies, but they suggest that women considering having a C-section that isn’t medically necessary should know that their children may be at higher risk for obesity.
“Almost one in three children are delivered by C-section in the U.S., and if cesarean delivery is a risk factor for obesity, this would be an important reason to avoid them if they aren ‘t necessary,” Huh said.
The mechanism behind the relationship between C-sections and obesity is unknown, but Huh and her co-authors speculated there could be a few possible explanations.
“One possibility is that different modes of delivery may affect the bacterial communities established in the body at birth. This could affect obesity by affecting the absorption of nutrients from the diet, or the bacteria in the gut might interact with host cells in ways that promote obesity,” she said.
“Another possible explanation is that hormones and protein signals released during labor may have an effect on the development of obesity,” she added.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio