Caesarean delivery doesn't harm baby's future health, study finds

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An Australian study has found that caesarean section delivery is not linked to a higher risk of health problems during childhood.

La Trobe University researchers used data on more than 5100 children born in 2003 and 2004 and followed their health outcomes until the age of seven.

The findings were then adjusted to take into account other factors which may have played a part in the child's development, including the mother's social environment and weight, and whether the child was breastfed.

"This study suggests that some of the previously reported associations between birth by caesarean delivery and adverse childhood health outcomes may be explained by influences other than mode of birth," lead researcher Elizabeth Westrupp said, according to CBS news.

"These findings should be reassuring to women and their doctors."

The study looked at each child's overall health, body weight, and issues such as asthma. Researchers took into account medications children were taking, disabilities and the family's social and economic circumstances. 

Researchers initially found children born by caesarean section were more likely to have a medical condition by the age of three, use prescribed drugs at the age of six or seven and weigh more at age eight or nine.

However the child's excess body weight was found to reflect the mother's obesity, instead of the method of delivery.

In addition, the children born via caesarean section were found to have better overall health at age two or three and better social skills at six or seven.

The research has been published in the current edition of online US journal Pediatrics.

"Concerns have been raised about associations between caesarean delivery and childhood obesity and asthma. However, published studies have not examined the long-term neuro-developmental outcomes or fully addressed confounding influences," researchers wrote of their reasons for undertaking the study.

"Caesarean delivery was associated with a mix of positive and negative outcomes across early childhood, but overall there were few associations, and these were not consistent. 

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