Having a cesarean delivery
can change a child's immunological profile, according to new research. In plain English, that means that a child born vaginally undergoes a biological change that cesarean babies don't.
Scientists think that may be why babies born by c-section have a greater risk of allergies and asthma in childhood.
The idea of the link between c-sections and allergies is nothing new. Researchers have been studying it for years. What is new is the biological explanation for why c-section kids have more
"Our research looked at the effect of cesarean-section versus vaginal delivery in newborns to determine whether cesarean-section was associated with reduced regulatory T-cell function," said lead
researcher Ngoc Ly, M.D., M.P.H., who is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
The scientists previously found increased IL-13 in cord blood. IL-13 is a cytokine. In this study, they found that c-section child had higher levels of IL-4 and IL-13 and lower levels of T-cells.
Ultimately, that means a reduced function in T-cells, which regulate bodily reactions. The study looked at more than 100 births, including 50 cesareans and 68 vaginal deliveries. In all cases, at
least one parent had allergies or asthma.
"This finding is exciting because it suggests that the mode of delivery may be an important factor influencing immune system development in the neonate," said Ly. But, Ly said, the findings are
preliminary. More research is needed to flesh out the connection.
What it means
This is a case where the information is something more for women to consider, but for many it won't change the delivery outcome. If a c-section is necessary, then this could open the window for
doctors to find methods of offsetting the risks of allergies in certain newborns. For those who are electing to have a c-section, this could be a reason to avoid the surgery and go vaginal.