Latino Children Born by C-Section May Be At Greater Risk for Asthma
As with any major surgical procedure, a cesarean section carries with it a host of risks including uterus infection and blood loss for the mother, and premature birth and lower apgar scores from exposure to anesthesia for the baby. In the U.S., one in 4 women deliver birth by C-sections. Between 1991 and 2008, the rate of Hispanic women who received C-sections in the U.S. increased 62 percent.
Over the past decade there has been intense debate about whether or not C-sections are absolutely necessary when there is no apparent harm to mother or child. Our sisters in Brazil launched an outright protest against their country’s mandatory C-section laws, recently. And in the U.S., this debate is especially valid when, according to the United States Public Health Service, one of the primary reasons a woman continues to get a C-section is because she’s already had one. “Once a cesarean, always a cesarean,” is the mantra spoken by doctors.
Now, according to a new study from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, there may be even more reason for moms to prefer natural birth over C-section. Researchers from the hospital found that babies born by cesarean section are five times more susceptible to developing allergies, including asthma, than babies born in natural natural birth. These new findings come on the heels of a 2004 study that found that by the age of one, babies born via C-section were more likely to be sensitive to common foods, including cows’ milk, as babies born vaginally. In addition, babies born by C-section were 46 percent more likely to have problems with diarrhea up to one year old than children born naturally.
Research in both studies attribute these risks to the fact that babies born by C-section have an altered or delayed normal bacterial development in their gut because they’ve bypassed the vaginal birth canal. The bacteria that develops when a baby passes through the vaginal birth canal aids in the development of critical antibodies and a healthy immune system that ward off allergies and illness.
According to Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, MPH, chairwoman of the health sciences department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and study lead author, the findings ”further advance the hygiene hypothesis that early childhood exposure to microorganisms affects the immune system’s development and onset of allergies.”
In the study, more than one thousand babies were evaluated from 2003-2007, and evaluated at four age intervals—one month, six months, one year and two years. Data was collected from the baby’s umbilical cord and stool, blood samples from the baby’s mother and father, breast milk and household dust, as well as family history of allergy or asthma, pregnancy variables, household pets, tobacco smoke exposure, baby illnesses and medication use. By the time they were toddlers the children born by cesarean section were five times more likely to be allergic to things like pet dander and dust mites than those born naturally.
Asthma has been on a steady rise worldwide. In the U.S., from 1980 to 1994, children with asthma increased 75%, according to the EPA. Roughly 8% of Hispanic children have been diagnosed with asthma, and of that number, Puerto Rican children have been found to be the most susceptible: It affects a whopping 20%, compared to only 7% of Mexican-American children living in urban communities. While there is more research that needs to be done, Johnson adds, “we believe a baby’s exposure to bacteria in the birth canal is a major influencer on their immune system.”
And though doctor’s aren’t recommending that you never opt for a C-section (each case is different), this new research may provide more to resort to C-sections only when absolutely necessary for the health of you and your baby. Remember, the choice, is yours.