Children who were delivered via caesarean are more likely to be obese by the time they reach five years old, new research has revealed.
The study, by the University of Edinburgh, collated data from 80 studies and trials, which collectively analysed 29 million births.
The results, published in the journal PLOS One, revealed that the risk of obesity for children under the age of five increased by 59% if they had been born via a C-section.
Additionally those delivered by caesarean were a fifth (21%) more likely to develop asthma by the age of 12.
Researchers explained that there was some evidence to suggest that C-sections can influence the development of the immune system and gut bacteria.
They also noted that many pregnant women end up giving birth that way because they themselves are obese, which can play a part in impacting their baby’s health.
The analysis of the previous studies also found that women who had given birth via caesarean were more likely to suffer from pregnancy complications in the future, with the risk of stillbirth rising by 17% and miscarriage by just over a quarter (27%).
But it wasn’t all negative. The research also revealed that caesareans can protect women from urinary incontinence, lowering the chance of suffering from bladder control problems by 56%,
The researchers believe the findings could help women to decide about birth methods and whether or not to have an elective caesarean.
“When compared with vaginal delivery, caesarean delivery is associated with a reduced rate of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, but this should be weighed against the association with increased risks for fertility, future pregnancy, and long-term childhood outcomes,” researchers concluded.
“This information could be valuable in counselling women on mode of delivery.”
Commenting on the findings, Dr Sarah Stock, who was co-author of the review from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Although we cannot conclude that caesarean delivery causes certain outcomes, pregnant women and clinicians should be aware that caesarean delivery is associated with long-term risks for the baby and for subsequent pregnancies.”
“The significance that women attribute to individual risks and benefits is likely to vary, but it is imperative that clinicians take care to ensure that women are made aware of any risk that they are likely to attach significance to.”
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