According to recent information published by the NationalCenter for Health Statistics, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control, nearly a third of all births in the United States are now by Cesarean section. Are there any side effects? Most believe that C-sections are free of side effects for the child once the baby is born.
There well may be a crack in this theory, however. According to recent research, one of the side effects could be an increase in allergies for children born with C-section.
Researchers from Finland ‘s National Institute for Health and Welfare (Metsälä et al. 2010) studied the habits and background of parents, and their relationship to a child contracting cow’s milk allergy up to two years old. They analyzed all children born in Finland between 1996 and 2004 that were diagnosed with cow’s milk allergy. In all, 16,237 allergic children were found. Children born of Cesarean section had a significantly greater risk of having milk allergies.
Researchers from Germany ‘s National Research Centre for Environment and Health and the Institute of Epidemiology (Laubereau et al. 2004) studied 865 healthy infants whose parents had allergies. They tested the babies at one, four, eight and twelve months old. They found that the 147 babies born with Cesarean section had over double the risk of sensitivity to allergens than their peers without C-section birth.
What could be the mechanisms of this? One theory is that because the vagina is colonized with billions of probiotic bacteria, the C-section child is deprived of these important probiotics during a critical moment of life.
Cesarean sections are often the result of induced birthing. Doctors now induce childbirth more often, and routinely. Induction leads to a greater risk of cesarean sections. C-sections also increase the likelihood of the mother requiring pain medication during childbirth (Caughey et al. 2006).
The curious part is that Cesarean sections have increased by some 50% in the United States between 1996 and 2007, from the low-20s percentile to the 32% in 2007-08. Are more mothers needing C-sections? Perhaps this is another sign of the sad state of affairs of our current medical system.
There are two components of C-sections that are worth considering in this light. The first is the liability of malpractice. When a doctor can be held liable for malpractice because he or she did not initiate inducement, and/or C-section, then hospitals and doctors will certainly want to err on the side of initiating inducement and/or C-sections. This is the result of a judicial system that does not protect the decisions that doctors make in an attempt to keep patients healthy.
While there is certainly a good reason for being able to sue a doctor for gross negligence, the lines have been blurred by the court system, and hungry (and creative) plaintiffs and attorneys that make cases for malpractice when the doctor simply had several choices, and had to select one, with the ultimate intention of helping the patient. When the doctor can be held accountable for making a justifiable decision that ends up resulting in harm to the patient, well this is simply wrong, and the law should reflect – just as it is reflected in the Good Samaritan laws – that if the intention is to help a patient, the doctor should not be held responsible for simply choosing a viable course of action that in hindsight could have been different.
The other thing to consider is that hospitals now have an incentive to initiate surgery: Their billing to the patient will be higher. This means that the more C-sections they conduct, the more profits they make. This is an upside-down scenario.
We might look to Traditional Chinese Medicine for a solution. TCM’s tradition for centuries was that the patient paid the physician for remaining healthy, not for being sick. The doctor took care of the patient when they were sick, but could only be paid for keeping the patient healthy: There was no additional incentives for additional “sick care.”
Laubereau B, Filipiak-Pittroff B, von Berg A, Grübl A, Reinhardt D, Wichmann HE, Koletzko S; GINI Study Group. Caesarean section and gastrointestinal symptoms, atopic dermatitis, and sensitisation during the first year of life. Arch Dis Child. 2004 Nov;89(11):993-7.
Metsälä J, Lundqvist A, Kaila M, Gissler M, Klaukka T, Virtanen SM. Maternal and perinatal characteristics and the risk of cow’s milk allergy in infants up to 2 years of age: a case-control study nested in the Finnish population. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Jun 15;171(12):1310-6.
Caughey AB , Nicholson JM, Cheng YW, Lyell DJ, Washington AE. Induction of labor and cesarean delivery by gestational age. Am Jour Obst & Gyn. 2006;195(3):700-705.