Researchers Link Cesarean Surgery to Genetic Changes

A small Swedish study published in the July edition of Acta Paediatricia sheds light on the possible mechanism for the increased risks for disorders such as asthma, type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and testicular cancer found in babies born by cesarean surgery. Although the study is technical and a little challenging to read; basically, researchers found that babies born by cesarean surgery before labor began had changes to the DNA pool in their white blood cells. Researchers theorize that the changes may be due to the difference in stress responses between babies born vaginally and babies born by ceserean. “Infants delivered by elective Cesarean before onset of labour lack the catecholamine surge seen after normal vaginal delivery.” This catecholamine surge helps prepare babies for life outside the womb by triggering lung-liquid resorbtion, thus facilitating air breathing, and by mobilizing fuel for the journey through the birth canal. This normal stress response may also affect the development of the immune system and the risk for developing serious medical conditions later in life. Certainly not all babies born by cesarean will develop these serious medical conditions, but with cesarean rates approaching 50% (and more) in some hospitals, the incidence of these serious medical conditions will increase. More research is urgently needed, but this small study adds to the growing pile of evidence supporting spontaneous vaginal birth as the optimum mode of birth for both mothers and babies.

3 Comments

  1. Carol

    I wonder if the CDC is tracking the health of children born by cesarean section. At this time it seems like the Europeans have more data on long term outcomes of cesarean birth.

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  2. Debby

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss and that of your sister. It’s hard to imagine such tragedy for one family. There is so much that we don’t know. I hope that someday research will help us to better understand the causes of cancer and chronic diseases such as asthma and type 1 diabetes. And what we can do to reduce the risks for our children and future generations.

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  3. Carol

    My family history may connect with this research or may be coincidental. My aunt had a twin birth (vaginally) and both sons are healthy and in their fifties.
    I gave birth to twins via c-section. One twin developed leukemia at the age of 6 and passed away after bone marrow transplant. The other twin has struggled with multiple food allergies.
    My sister gave birth to twins via c-section. One twin developed a brain tumor and passed away at the age of 5.
    My sister and I have worked with diet and vitamins to shore up the health of our surviving children.

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