For years, controversy has raged over whether being born by C-section is bad for a baby’s health.
Now, a new study in Scotland has come up with an interesting finding: it could depend on the type of C-section.
The University of Aberdeen study looked at the long-term health of more than 300,000 children. It found that those born by planned caesarean had more health problems than those born by emergency caesarean. The suggestion is that labour has some benefit for babies, even if it is cut short.
Overall, the differences weren’t big. But the study did find that babies born by planned C-section had a 35 per cent higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes than babies born by emergency C-section.
As well, babies born by planned C-section were 22 per cent more likely to be hospitalised with asthma than babies born vaginally. However, there weren’t significant differences between the types of birth when it came to obesity, cancer and irritable bowel disease.
The obstetrician who led the study, Dr Mairead Black, says with the caesarean rate increasing worldwide, researchers had wondered if babies born by c-section were "missing out" on anything.
"Our thinking was: If a baby is born naturally, it comes into contact with bacteria from the mother, which might help with immune system development," she explains.
Dr Josef Neu, a neonatologist from the University of Florida, says during labour, a newborn absorbs maternal microbes into its mouth and gastrointestinal tract. He says the theory is that maternal microbes “train” the baby’s immune system, so it doesn’t overreact or become destructive and precipitate autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes.