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Cesarean deliveries may increase allergy chance

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

Allergies linked to c-sections

New research has shown that there is a biological link between babies born via cesarean and an increased risk of allergies. What does this mean for you and your baby? Some women must have a cesarean for the safety of their baby, but you may want to consider this important information if you are considering an elective c-section.

Sneezing BabyHaving 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.

Furthering research

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 allergies.

"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.

Technically speaking

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.

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