New research, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, reviews the existing literature on the long-term health benefits and risks associated with having a cesarean delivery compared with a vaginal one.
Sarah Stock — from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom — and her colleagues carried out a review of existing research in the hope to shed some light on the effects of having a cesarean delivery, also known as a C-section, on the health of both the mother and the child.
The findings are significant, given that more and more women are opting for a cesarean delivery instead of a vaginal one – a lot of the time without having been medically advised to do so.
As the authors of the new study report, almost 25 percent of births in Europe and 41 percent of births in North America occur via a C-section.
The researchers note that while pregnant women are usually well-advised of the short-term outcomes of having a cesarean, they are less informed about the long-term impact of a C-section – not only on their health and that of their baby, but also on their ability to carry future pregnancies.
So, Stock and her team set out to examine the main maternal and baby outcomes associated with C-sections. To this end, they reviewed randomized controlled trials and large prospective cohort studies.
In total, the number of participants included in the studies was almost 30 million.
The main outcome that the researchers looked for in mothers was pelvic floor dysfunction, while the main baby outcome studied was asthma, and the main outcome of future pregnancies was perinatal death.