Children delivered via cesarean birth appear to be more likely to be obese in childhood and adolescence than those born vaginally, according to the results of a study published online on May 14, 2013, in the International Journal of Obesity
The study included more than 10,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 1991 and 1992 who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Data on the children were collected from birth to 15 years of age and were analyzed to find associations between cesarean birth and body mass index. The researchers also took into account factors such as birth weight, gender, family sociodemographics, parental body mass, and infant feeding patterns.
Infants delivered by abdominal delivery had lower birth weights than those born vaginally. However, starting at 6 weeks of age, children born via cesarean delivery were more likely to be overweight than vaginally born children. By the age of 11 years, children delivered by cesarean delivery were 83% more likely to be overweight or obese, and obesity rates remained consistently higher for cesarean-born children through adolescence. The correlation between obesity and cesarean birth was stronger in children born to overweight mothers.
The researchers concluded that more research is needed to understand the underlying cause of the association between cesarean birth and increased risk of obesity.