Is there a connection between cesarean birth and cognitive delay in children?

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An Australian study compared the cognitive performance of children born by cesarean section to that of children born vaginally. The former seem to have a delay compared to the latter.

 

While the rates of births by cesarean section continues to increase worldwide, a new Australian study may lead to rethink the use of cesarean sections when they are not medically indicated. The researchers conducted a study to compare the cognitive performance of children aged 4 to 9 born by C-section to that of children born vaginally in a sample of 3666 children.

They used the data from a national cohort and analyzed the results of academic tests to measure academic maturity at 4-5, vocabulary and comprehension from 4 to 9, as well as problem-solving ability. They observed that the scores from children born by C-section were lower than those of children born vaginally, by up to 1/10 of the standard deviation in national tests. In this sample, they also noted that the differences were not correlated to a lower rate of breastfeeding or to maternal or childhood health problems.

Considering that dysbiosis was also found in certain diseases that impact cognitive performance (autistic and attention disorders), the researchers considered a potential link between a child’s microbiota, method of delivery, and cognitive development. While awaiting other studies to confirm these hypotheses, the researchers caution doctors to evaluate the risk before choosing a method of delivery, particularly cesarean sections.

 

Sources:

Polidano C. et al. The relation between cesarean birth and child cognitive development. Scientific Reports 7: 1148