American Heart Association

American Heart Association

Issue: January 2017
November 17, 2016
2 min read

Cesarean section delivery may increase obesity risk for children

Issue: January 2017
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NEW ORLEANS — Children delivered by cesarean section may be more likely to develop overweight or obesity compared with children delivered vaginally, according to study findings presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions.

“Maternal overweight and obesity and cesarean delivery are each associated with higher odds of offspring developing overweight and obesity in childhood,” Noel Mueller, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview. “The association between Cesarean delivery and offspring overweight and obesity were at least as strong among overweight and obese women, raising the possibility that practices that promoting vaginal delivery among overweight and obese mothers may help to reduce their child's risk for developing obesity.”

Noel Mueller

In a prospective study, Mueller and colleagues analyzed data from 1,441 mother-child pairs participating in the Boston Birth Cohort, looking at delivery method (vaginal or cesarean section) maternal prepregnancy BMI and offspring body weight in childhood. Researchers found that children delivered via cesarean section had 1.4 times greater odds of developing overweight or obesity in childhood (95% CI, 1.1-1.8) vs. children delivered vaginally, after adjustment for maternal age, race, education, air pollution exposure, prepregnancy BMI, pregnancy weight gain and birth weight.

In addition, prepregnancy BMI was independently associated with childhood overweight and obesity. Children delivered vaginally to mothers with overweight or obesity had 1.7- (95% CI, 1.2-2.3) and 1.8-times greater odds (95% CI, 1.3-2.6), respectively, of developing overweight or obesity in childhood vs. children delivered vaginally to mothers of normal weight. Children delivered via cesarean section to mothers with overweight or obesity had 2.2- (95% CI, 1.5-3.2) and 2.8-times greater odds (95% CI, 1.9-4.1), respectively, of developing overweight or obesity in childhood vs. children delivered vaginally to normal weight mothers, according to researchers.

“Our findings, consistent with previous research on this topic including meta-analyses, suggests that interventions that reduce medically unnecessary cesarean sections may help to reduce the transmission of obesity risk from mother to child,” Mueller said. “Future studies are needed to determine whether the association of cesarean section and childhood obesity is potentially causal and, if so, to determine whether mother-to-newborn sharing of microbiota mediate the association.” – by Regina Schaffer


Mueller NT, et al. Abstract 152. Presented at: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Nov. 12-16, 2016; New Orleans.

Disclosure: The study is funded in part by the NIH. Mueller reports no relevant financial disclosures.