Why Having A C-Section Isn’t Always Riskier For Babies

Illustrated by Marina Esmeraldo.
We're used to thinking that having a C-section sets kids up for higher chances of having all kinds of health problems. But a new study suggests that, in some cases, C-sections are no more risky than vaginal delivery, The New York Times reports. The study, published this month in JAMA, analyzed birth data for about 320,000 babies born in Scotland between 1993 and 2007. Of those infants, most (78.7%) were born vaginally. About 4% were born by planned C-sections and another 17.4% were born by unplanned cesarean. (These emergency procedures tend to happen when a woman has started regular labor and a complication of some kind arises.) Then, the researchers kept up with those kids until February of this year. Their results showed that, compared to those born via vaginal births, children born via planned C-sections had a small but increased risk for developing health problems later on. These included the risk for being hospitalized for asthma and needing an asthma inhaler by age 5. However, surprisingly, kids born via unplanned C-sections didn't show the same increased risks. These results suggest that, even if it's cut short by an emergency C-section, the process of labor may be helpful for babies. This is especially unexpected considering that we're hearing more and more about traumatic birth experiences — in which pregnant women armed with strict plans for giving birth end up with emergency C-sections and symptoms of PTSD. But maybe we can all feel a little better about our plans going awry as we understand more about how births really affect our kids — and ourselves.

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