New research shows c-sections don't cause poor health in children.

C-section births have been blamed for everything from autism to obesity to food allergies, leaving mums who have delivered their babies via c-section feeling a little shitty, to be honest. Now new research shows that c-section births are not associated with illness or health and development outcomes in children.

Previous research had claimed that c-section births were to blame for a litany of chronic health problems later in life, things like obesity, asthma and even type 1 diabetes.

However researchers at La Trobe University in Melbourne say they have managed to prove that this is not the case, much to the relief of the one third of Australian mums who give birth this way each year.

"This study does not support a strong association between cesarean delivery and poorer health or neuro-developmental outcomes in childhood."

Over 5000 children were examined for the study from birth until the age of 7, with the conclusion being that c-section births are not associated with increased health issues in childhood.

Researchers looked at conditions such as asthma and body weight, measuring outcomes against other factors such as medications the children were taking as well as social and economic factors. The finding: the poor health outcomes these children were experiencing were more likely to have been caused by other factors such as maternal health and lifestyle, not by the method of their birth.

Study lead author Dr Steve Robson - who came up with the idea for the research - says he was surprised at how little work had been done into the claims being made against c-section births.

"It's amazing how little research has been done about such a common procedure.  People had concerns about problems such as children who were delivered by caesarean section having a higher chance of being overweight, or having immunity-based illnesses such as asthma and diabetes. The problem has been that association does not mean causation - just because two things appear to go together, it doesn't necessarily mean one causes the other," Dr Robson said.

He says one of his main motivators for conducting the research was to ease the guilt some mothers feel. "The issue I wanted to address, in particular, was the situation where a woman had to have a caesarean birth (for example, the baby would not fit through the birth canal, or perhaps the placenta was low and vaginal birth wasn't safe) and felt guilty that she had somehow harmed her child in the long term. This study should provide a lot of reassurance to families that how the baby is born isn't such a big issue in the long term, it is how the baby is loved."


Does this mean that c-section births are just as safe as vaginal births? Robson says that all depends on the situation.

"This study should provide a lot of reassurance to families that how the baby is born isn't such a big issue in the long term, it is how the baby is loved."

"For example, a very difficult forceps delivery of a vulnerable baby after a long labour is much more likely to harm a baby than a caesarean section.  On the other hand, if two healthy babies are born before 38 weeks, a child delivered by caesarean section is more likely to have transient breathing problems than a baby born vaginally.  It really depends on the situation.  Sometimes a caesarean section is safer for mother and baby, sometimes things would favour trying vaginal birth."

At the end of the day, he wants pregnant woman to be able to make a decision about how to give birth based on the facts, not on myths and untruths. "Every birth is a personal experience, and every baby is different. The critical thing is that women trust the people caring for them, and that they make decisions based on fact and not scare-stories."

This research is incredibly important for all mums past and present who may feel like they are doing their baby harm by agreeing to a c-section birth.Now we know that it's pretty much just another way to give birth.

This report was published the journal Pediatrics and was supported by Bupa Health. 

Have you ever heard that c-sections are harmful to children? Did this influence your feelings about having a c-section birth?