“C-Section May Boost Childhood Obesity Risk, Study Finds,” Jennifer Huget, The Washington Post, May 23, 2012.
WHAT IS CHILDHOOD OBESITY ?
“Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height,” defines the Mayo Clinic. Physical diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol used to be prevalent primarily among adults. Now, we see children with extra weight (obesity) heading down the path toward these conditions. Furthermore, children with obesity are at risk for developing poor self-esteem. Research is showing us how certain factors in infancy may contribute toward the development of this condition.
OBESITY AND C-SECTIONS
This past May, research was published in the BMJ Archives of Disease in Childhood showed babies delivered by c-section were more likely to become obese as children than babies born vaginally. In fact, they were almost twice as likely to become obese. The study looked at records of 1255 mom/baby pairs, with 274 delivered by c-section and 971 delivered vaginally. Researchers looked at both the BMI (Body Mass Index) and the skin-fold of the children at the age of three. BMI is calculated from the weight and height and is a screening tool. At the age of three, 15.7 percent of the babies delivered by c-section were obese compared with 7.5 percent of those delivered vaginally.
The authors of the study suggest that the babies delivered by c-section are not exposed to the same colonies of digestive bacteria as a baby delivered vaginally. They suggest that this lack of digestive bacteria may diminish the digestion and absorption process of food and contribute to obesity. The authors point out that 4 to 18 percent of c-sections are carried out at “maternal request” rather than at the doctor’s recommendation.
PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Once baby is born it is not possible to change the way in which she entered this world. Although we can can not change the fact that some babies were born by c-section, what we can do is minimize other contributing factors. Parents help prevent childhood obesity by feeding babies and toddlers healthy and fresh foods rather than highly processed ones and by providing daily time on a play mat, in a swimming pool, or at the park for exercise. Although a c-section can be a life-saving delivery method, elective ones may diminish with this new research. Through pre-natal education, research studies such as this one may provide important points of discussion regarding the cost/benefit of an elective c-section delivery.