Everything Pregnancy

Does a Repeat C-Section Put Baby's Health at Risk?

A new study shows little increased risk to a child's health if born via a repeat C-section.

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If you've had a previous C-section and are pregnant and planning another, there's good news: While there's greater risk of complications for moms with repeat C-sections, a new study out of Scotland found that they pose little risk to the health of your child. In fact, babies born by planned C's were, for the most part, no less healthy than those whose mother had a natural birth.

Researchers tracked data from second births for more than 40,000 women in Scotland. All of them had a first child delivered by C-section. Their second births were either an elective C-section, unplanned C-section, or vaginal delivery.

They looked at several possible health outcomes among the second C-section kids, including: obesity at age 5; hospitalization for asthma; prescription for asthma medication at age 5; hospitalization for irritable bowel disease; type 1 diabetes; learning disability; cerebral palsy; cancer; and death.

They found learning disability and death to be slightly more common after unplanned C-sections, but not after planned ones. They also discovered that children born by both repeat planned and unplanned C-sections were slightly more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than those who entered the world via vaginal delivery, but the difference was not clinically significant.

"Women may be somewhat reassured by the apparent lack of risk to long-term offspring health following planned, repeat C-section specifically," wrote Mairead Black, who led the study. "This study may therefore support the process of planning birth after C-section in a way that reflects women's values and preferences."

Still, considering the steady rise in the number of U.S. births via the procedure and the fact that it does carry risks, it's probably a good idea to err on the side of caution. "The topic of vaginal birth after cesarean has become a key issue in modern obstetrics," Dr. Jennifer Wu, an OB at Lenox Hill Hospital told Health Day. "Patients and doctors should take all of this data into consideration when considering vaginal birth after C-section and the likelihood of successful [vaginal birth] should be a factor in the counseling."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.