According to a recent study conducted by the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort (MoBa), children delivered by Caesarean section, (or C-section as it is also called) have an increased risk of developing asthma in the first three years of their lives.
The study – which compared children born vaginally to those born by both planned and emergency Caesarean — shows that this is particularly true among children without a hereditary disposition to asthma and allergies.
The MoBa study examined the link between delivery method and the development of lower respiratory tract infections, wheezing and asthma in the first three years of children’s lives. A sample of 37 000 children was observed.
Findings of the MoBa Study
The results of the study support previous findings which show that children delivered by Caesarean section have an increased risk of developing asthma. The findings however do not suggest an increased risk of frequent respiratory tract infections or wheezing.
Interestingly, the increased risk of asthma among children delivered by Caesarean section, was significantly higher among children born of mothers without allergies.
Maria Magnus, Researcher at the Department of Chronic Diseases at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health says, “ it is unlikely that a Caesarean delivery itself would cause an increased risk of asthma, rather that children delivered this way may have an underlying vulnerability.”
According to the research this is due to changed bacterial flora in the intestines that affects the normal development of their immune system. This may be the result of delayed gut colonisation or of increased neonatal respiratory morbidity.
Caesarean sections in SA
A Caesarean section is a surgical procedure where an incision is made through the mother’s abdomen and womb to assist delivery of a baby. While some moms may personally decide on this procedure, it is sometimes considered a necessity in emergency situations brought on by maternal or foetal complications.
A Caesarean procedure may in several instances save a mother or baby’s life. However recent increases in caesarean’s suggest that doctors are over-performing the procedure.
The World Health Organisation recommends that the caesarean section rate of any country should not exceed 15% — yet in South Africa’s private healthcare sector for example, the rate is exceptionally high. Caesarean section births in the private sector comprise about 70% of total deliveries, compared with only 18% in the public sector. The move towards this surgical delivery is a global trend which sees more and more mothers delivering in this way. There is no such thing as an elective Caesarean in South Africa’s public hospitals. These are only performed in emergency situations and even still, more urgent cases receive priority.
Asthma in children
In the last 20 years, the number of children who have developed asthma has doubled. There are signs that parents can look out for if they suspect their child is at risk. But not all children have the same asthma symptoms. These symptoms can vary during an asthma episode.
- Regular coughing spells, especially while at play, at night or while laughing.
- Decreased energy during play
- Fast breathing
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing when breathing in and out
- Shortness of breath
- Tightened chest and neck muscles
- Feeling weak or tired
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Regular headaches
- If your child is showing any of these signs, take him to the doctor immediately.
Children with asthma face unique challenges and symptoms can continue right into adulthood. Symptoms can be kept under control which can ultimately prevent damage to your child’s growing lungs. How you choose to give birth is your choice, make sure you have enough information to make an informed decision that will benefit both you and your baby.