The risks and benefits of caesarean section deliveries

26 January 2018
medical practitioner talking to pregnant woman

A new study has found that children born by caesarean section have an increased risk of asthma and obesity compared with those born vaginally.

Researchers from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh in the UK reviewed nearly 80 studies to assess the long-term risks and benefits associated with caesarean section deliveries.

Caesarean delivery rates are rising worldwide, especially elective caesareans performed without any medical indication.

The literature review found that caesareans increased the risk of:

·         Asthma in children for up to 12 years

·         Obesity in children for up to five years

·         Miscarriage in subsequent pregnancies

·         Stillbirth in subsequent pregnancies

·         Placenta prevaria in subsequent pregnancies.

However, women who gave birth via caesarean section had a decreased risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic prolapse.

The researchers say the findings highlight the need to weigh the risks and benefits of caesarean sections carefully.

“We cannot conclude that cesarean delivery causes certain outcomes, but patients and clinicians should be aware that cesarean delivery is associated with long-term risks for the baby and for subsequent pregnancies and a reduced risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse for the mother.

“The significance that women attribute to these individual risks is likely to vary, but it is imperative that clinicians take care to ensure that women are made aware of any risk that they are likely to attach significance to,” they say.

The researchers say both women and clinicians need to discuss whether a caesarean section is necessary when making their birth plans.

"This information should help inform discussions about mode of delivery, and may facilitate appropriate personalised delivery planning and shared decision making," the researchers say.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.