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Member Research and Reports

UAlbany: Babies Born via Cesarean Delivery Have Increased Risk of Asthma, Allergies

Experts have suspected that clusters of bacteria passed from a mother to the baby during vaginal delivery provide protection against asthma and allergies. Babies born via cesarean delivery simply “miss out” on obtaining this protective bacterium, Dr. Erin Bell, professor at UAlbany explains.

In a new study, Dr. Bell and graduate student Dr. Temilayo Adeyeye’s team found delivery method is indeed a factor. They analyzed 6,157 infants born to 5,034 mothers in NYS by compiling data from vital records and questionnaires. Respiratory conditions and allergy data were collected at 4, 8, 12, 24, 30 and 36 months postpartum.

The authors observed that infants delivered via cesarean section were at a more than two-fold higher risk.

In particular, emergency cesarean deliveries were significantly associated with wheeze and doctor-diagnosed food allergy. Dr. Bell, however, notes that more research is needed in this area.

“We expected that planned cesarean delivery would be associated with these outcomes since babies delivered by unplanned or emergency cesarean deliveries may have some exposure to the bacteria in the birth canal. Thus, our findings for emergency cesarean deliveries were unexpected.”

“Still, evidence from this and other studies suggests that the bacteria a mother passes to her baby during vaginal delivery may serve to protect the child from developing asthma and food allergies. Though cesarean deliveries simply cannot be avoided in many cases, this study provides additional data that when vaginal delivery is safe, it provides additional health benefits for the infant.”

The research was part of the larger Upstate KIDS Study.

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