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C-Section Doubles Risk of Obesity

The contribution of cesarean deliveries has steadily increased in the United States, and in 2007, reached a level of 32% of all deliveries. This trend is disturbing for many reasons, but most conventional healthcare practitioners do not consider the implications of altered gut flora during childhood as consequence associated with cesarean deliveries. However, with the gut's bacterial diversity being associated with numerous health conditions, perhaps it's time this is seriously considered by both conventional healthcare practitioners (during the patient intake and medical history) and by mothers (who are contemplating elective c-section).

The authors of this current study explain that altered gut flora is the leading theory of why a history of c-section delivery increases the risk of childhood obesity. It's been shown that children delivered vaginally have different types of intestinal flora compared to children delivered via c-section--and this may not only explain a propensity toward obesity among children born via c-section, but may also explain higher rates of asthma, eczema, and allergies.

Each method of delivery introduces different bacterial species to the newborn, which eventually colonizes the child's intestines (and the rest of their body). This difference in gut bacteria affects the efficiency of energy extraction from food and nutrients, and may influence insulin resistance, inflammation, and fat deposits.

Specifically, higher numbers of Firmicutes and lower numbers of Bacteroides colonize the guts of children born by c-section. Other studies have shown this pattern in the gut microbiomes of obese individuals (see links to other posts below).

Considering that 1 in 3 deliveries in the United States is surgical (whether elective or emergency), the authors conclude, "a mother who chooses caesarean delivery...should be aware of potential health risks to her and her baby, including childhood obesity."

Source: Delivery by caesarean section and risk of obesity in preschool age children: a prospective cohort study

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  1. Excellent article! Thanks. So what do you recommend a mother do if she's had an emergency c-section?

    1. Hi Dani,

      If you read the following posts, you'll get the idea that probiotic supplements for both the mom and child may help. However, probiotics are strain-specific, so I can't guarantee that any product you buy from a healthfood store will offer the weight-related benefits (although there will be many other benefits).


      Now, what I'm about to recommend next may seem off-the-wall, but a mother could expose her child to her vaginal flora through directly contacting the child to her vagina (assuming she's not suffering from any type of infection down there).

      Keep in mind, this is the very reason why healthcare professionals (even on the conventional side) recommend frequent skin-to-skin contact...it helps the transfer of bacteria (good and bad...yes, we need those species/strains that are typically seen as "bad" too) from mom's body to child.

      Anyway, those are just my thoughts.


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