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Cesarean section: long-term risks for the child

A 2013 scientific study linked cesarean section and overweight in children. This method of childbirth could also be the cause of other diseases such as certain respiratory infections or disorders of the digestive system. Safe intervention, trivialized over the years, the cesarean actually has consequences that should not be underestimated.

In France, nearly one in five women gives birth by caesarean section. Even if it involves more risks than giving birth by natural means, this surgical intervention is frequent and today completely safe. However, a cesarean is not as trivial an act as one might think.

Several large-scale works evoke a link between this mode of childbirth and various diseases in the child, such as obesity, respiratory allergies or inflammatory diseases of the digestive system. According to an American study based on 10 children, babies born by cesarean section would have Twice as likely to be overweight than those born vaginally. The risk would be even greater for those born to overweight mothers themselves. This same observation was made 6 months earlier by researcher Susanna Huh of the Boston Pediatric Hospital. The obesity rate at age 3 was twice as high in children born by Caesarean section (15,7%) than in those born vaginally (7,5%). Being overweight is not the only possible consequence of a cesarean section. According to a study presented at the last American congress of allergology, giving birth by cesarean section increases the risk of respiratory allergy by five every 2 years of the child.

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« The link between cesarean section and these different childhood pathologies is now certain., confirms Professor Philippe Deruelle, obstetrician-gynecologist. All of these studies were carried out on very large cohorts of children. Each time the researchers made the same clinical findings. »

Childbirth: the role of bacteria in the vagina

The explanation of this phenomenon is to be found on the side of the intestinal microbiota, more commonly known as the intestinal flora. These are all the bacteria found in the digestive tract. At birth, each individual has a microbiota that will evolve throughout life. These different bacteria that colonize our intestinal flora are necessary for our survival.

During a vaginal birth, the baby ingests the bacteria in the mother’s vagina. The composition of her microbiota is thus very close to the mother’s vaginal environment. These bacteria have a protective effect on the baby’s immune system. They create a favorable ground for colonization by its own digestive bacteria. This is not at all the case during a cesarean delivery.

Teisisõnu, the intestinal flora of babies born by cesarean section is less rich in good bacteria than that of babies born vaginally. The composition of its microbiota is modified and, over time, this influences its immune system, which becomes less protective against certain digestive or respiratory diseases. The same goes for obesity. The intestinal flora of children born by cesarean section would treat fatty and sweet foods less well and therefore facilitate overweight. But all of these hypotheses have yet to be confirmed.

Childbirth: convenient cesarean sections should be avoided

However, there is no question of being alarmed. Obviously, the cesarean section alone is not responsible for the obesity epidemic. Other predisposing factors, such as the BMI of the parents are also taken into account. In addition, if the cesarean affects the microbiota, it can also regulate over time. Finally, in the majority of cases, the cesarean section is justified by medical imperatives. In 2012, the Haute Autorité de Santé also recalled the situations that could lead to scheduling a cesarean section at term. 

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