A new study published last week found some interesting results – children born via c-section are 26% more likely to be overweight and 22% more likely to be obese. Numerous media outlets reported on the story (here, here, and here). This is not a cause and effect relationship, so if you had a c-section PLEASE don’t worry that you have doomed your child to be overweight or obese. There are many factors that may be the cause of this and the authors even admit the link could be due to confounding variables.
While the rate of elective c-sections is up to almost 33% of all births, only 2.5% of these are because the mom requested a c-section. The others are due to medical factors or inpatient providers. One medical reason that jumps to mind immediately is a large baby. Many of the c-sections I assisted with on my rotation were because the baby wouldn’t fit. Big babies have been shown to have an increased risk of childhood overweight and obesity. For some reason the researchers did not control for birth weight.
I don’t plan to start scaring my patients by telling them that if they have a c-section their child will be overweight or obese. I honestly think that the findings we are seeing are more closely linked to other variables. The birthing process provides many benefits to mom and baby and it is difficult to know what role is plays in future obesity risk.