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Obese Toddlers and C-Sections

Updated on May 31, 2012
Picture of me in c-section surgery
Picture of me in c-section surgery

© 2012 Katina Davenport

Every time we turn around it seems as if there is another study or finding related to the childhood obesity epidemic. Within the last 20 years there have been more concerns about obese and morbidly obese individuals in the United States, including children. Over the years researchers have concluded that formula fed babies were more likely to be obese; also, babies fed table food too early, lack of exercise, fast food, too much television, and school lunches helped with this growing problem. While these are all contributing factors to the growing obesity crisis in American children, the latest findings are more perplexing, in my opinion.

Recently, it has been reported that children born via caesarean section are more likely to be overweight by the age of 3. Author and doctor, Dr. Susannah Huh from Boston’s Children’s Hospital conducted a study that included 1,250 children born between 1999 and 2002. Of the 1,250 babies born between this period, 25 percent of them were born via C-section. Nineteen percent of the children born by C-section were overweight by age 3 compared to 17 percent of children born vaginally.

The Necessity of C-sections

C-sections are a necessity for some mothers. It is used to preserve the life of the mother and the child in cases of pre-eclampsia, lack of oxygen to the baby, gestational diabetes, multiple births, larger than normal gestational babies, and the birth failing to progress. No mothers that I know were absolutely willing to have major surgery in order to give birth; unless, they were among those celebs that believe they were too posh to push. Still, there are risks associated with caesarean births. There is a greater risk of maternal mortality. About 1 in 2,500 mothers die after a C-section compared to 1 in 10,000 mothers who deliver vaginally.

The Real Reason Children are Obese by the age of 3

Although I respect the findings of this study, this cannot be the only reason children born by caesarean section are obese by the age of 3. Let’s take into consideration the number of babies born with high birth rates, which is a cause to have a C-section. We all have heard news reports of women with gestational diabetes having babies that are 14 and 16 pounds at birth. While this is rare, researchers should consider those with extremely high birth weights.

I happen to be a mother of a chubby baby boy at birth due to gestational diabetes. He weighed 10lbs 11 ounces. I had to have a C-section because my doctor believed that he was too large to pass through the birth canal, even though I had a natural delivery with my daughter. I wondered if my son would have a weight problem because of his size at birth. To be honest, his weight and height are very proportionate; and his doctor says he is not too heavy at all. Needless to say, this study frightened me and brought about guilt. I thought maybe I would be responsible if my child would become obese due to the surgery. For many moms, this could be their sentiment as well.

Now that this study has taken prominence in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to explain childhood obesity, researchers should also consider the diet of the child and parental responsibility. At this age, children are not that affected by peer influence and unhealthy government school lunches. The responsibility of obese children is directly affected by what the parents are feeding the children and the allowance of inactivity. Other considerations are a genetic predisposition for obesity. These genetic factors along with social and environmental factors are all early childhood influencers. If some parents are more proactive in influencing good eating habits earlier, this could determine if your child will be overweight or not, even if they were born via surgery.

From the perspective of a mom that had a C-section to deliver a child, researchers should know how this affects the mothers that have given birth in this manner. This could lead mothers into feeling guilty about their medical decision for a C-section delivery. We should not have to feel afraid that our children will be obese. Childhood obesity was never on our minds while holding our little bundles of joy in our arms.

Will doctors now have dietary guidelines for children that were born via caesarian? Will there be an obesity vaccine? Sounds farfetched, but since these findings are coming to light you never know if researchers are planning to genetically alter obesity genes in some way.

It may be too early to tell what the possible outcome of this study will be. Certainly, we still need to address the childhood obesity rate in this country. If anything good should come of this study it would be to educate parents about the importance of proper nutrition and exercise throughout the life of their child.

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