Babies born by C-section have higher obesity risk
Children born by caesarean section have a higher chance of being obese by the time they are five, according to a new analysis.
The conclusion followed a review of 80 studies involving 29 million births.
The review has particular implications for Ireland, where one-third of babies are now born by caesarean section.
It means more than 20,000 babies are delivered surgically in Irish maternity hospitals and units annually.
The researchers from the University of Edinburgh found the risk of obesity for under-fives rose by 59pc if they had been delivered through a caesarean section
They were also at 21pc higher risk of developing asthma by the age of 12.
The reasons for the higher obesity risk have been linked to babies being surgically removed from the womb.
This means they are not exposed to important bacteria as they would be if they had passed through the birth canal. This influences their metabolism.
Their body's ability to store fat may be affected, the findings in 'PLOS Medicine' revealed.
Many women who have a caesarean section are also advised not to give birth naturally and this may influence their baby's diet and lifestyle.
Caesarean sections may be planned in advance. However, they may also be essential in an emergency situation and carried out at short notice, normally during labour.
Former Spice Girl-turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham was accused of being "too posh to push" by having her children by caesarean section, although she rejected this.
However, Irish obstetricians say the medical-risk profile of many women giving birth in maternity hospitals and units means they are recommended to have a caesarean section for safety reasons.
Risks include the pregnant woman being obese.
More women are also becoming mothers later in life and are seeking fertility treatment with a higher chance of having a multiple birth.
A caesarean section may be carried out because a baby is in the breech position, with feet first. Other risks include having a low-lying placenta, pregnancy-related high blood pressure or infections.
At the same time, obesity levels in Irish children are increasing due to obvious factors including eating habits and lifestyle.
Dr Grace O'Malley, who runs the obesity programme in Temple Street Hospital, said 20pc of children and 25pc of adolescents in Ireland are overweight or obese.
Children with obesity are more likely to develop serious adult diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and many cancers.