Having a C-Section Can Change Your Baby’s DNA?

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Image via Flickr/ Ambernectar 13

Correct me if I'm wrong, but c-sections are probably one of the last things a woman wants to have to deal with when giving birth to her child. And with this new study, there might be an even greater reason to steer as far away from having a c-section as possible.   

According to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, c-sections could bring about epigenetic changes to your child.

{ MORE: The 5 Real Risks of C-Sections }

What in the world is epigenetic? 

Epigenetic, by definition, is an adjective that means “relating to, being, or involving changes in gene function that do not involve changes in DNA sequence,” which may or may not mean anything at all to you. But, in normal-people speak, it basically is referring to changes within the DNA that are not relating to the actual sequencing.

So, c-sections could contribute to changes in the DNA of your baby and possibly be related to a risk of future things like type-1 diabetes, respiratory diseases, and obesity. Babies may be able to out grow some of these issues, like the respiratory issues, but there's also a chance that they don't.

But why would a c-section have anything to do with the DNA of your baby?

Tomas Ekstrom, PhD, participated in a study in which c-section births and vaginal births were observed to see what could possibly be the cause of DNA shakeup. Out of the 18 c-section births, all 18 of them showed increased signs of methylation—a process that changes whether or not certain traits are present in the DNA. 

{ MORE: Problems in the Delivery Room: Why Can't I Hold My Baby Right Away }

The explanation given by the participants in the study is that the trauma that babies experience when being birthed vaginally helps them ready themselves for life outside of the womb, triggering their body's defense mechanisms. Babies that have the “posh” experience (yeah right) of being birthed via c-section don't have the chance to set up any sort of defense to outside factors.

In a nutshell, babies that have to rough it through the gauntlet of the birth canal are environmentally forced into defense mode, protecting them from certain conditions.

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 Medically necessary c-sections aside, do studies like this one influence your thoughts on opting for a c-section when there is a choice? 

Editors Note: The intention of this article is certainly not to shame or frighten moms who need c-sections, merely to offer information on new studies being done in the field. We fully support moms, no matter how they give birth.

For some positive c-section stories, check out:

I Loved My C-Section Birth

Why I Opted for a Repeat C-Section

10 Tips for a Family-Centered Cesarean Birth Plan

 

What do you think?

Having a C-Section Can Change Your Baby’s DNA?

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

Tell us what you think!

73 comments

  1. angela says:

    I think this guy should actually habe a study before portraying these kinds of accusations. Truth be told its the health of the mother and genetics that determine th ings such as diabetes and obesity and what not. What has been proven is that when a child is delivered natural every sicknes or cold or flu or whatever is secreted through the vaginal walls and coays the baby with all the things your body has once fought off. It has been proven that helps build the immune system. Change your dna by going out a hole that god put there or man does not even possible. A child born c section can build there immune system just as well. They might be more at risk for sickness or allergies but with the people today that risk is just as high if you deliver vaginal. Do what is best for you. I think everyone should try to deliver the way it was intended you heal better and less risk of infections for yourself. That isn’t always possible if its an emergency have the c section with no doubt about doing it. If you choose it because you don’t want to push shame on you for your greediness. Get an epidural! You should have never got pregmant to begin with.

  2. verochka31 says:

    some people must have really dull and boring lives. basically they telling woman that unless they deliver naturally there’s not point in having children. I have 5 beautiful, healthy, not overweighted children via c-section and just found ot we are going on 4 weeks of our 6th baby. Am I not allowed to have children because I am small bone structured and my pelvis doesn’t open up? this is my only flaw otherwise I am healthy, fit and happy. I will not let such people bring me down or feel any less about myself!

  3. Sara says:

    I had an elective c section bc it’s my choice how I wanted to give birth. I’m no more or less of a woman or a mother than anyone else. My son is happy, healthy and amazing. This article is legit garbage and a man with no medical background should have written this for The Onion not this blog. Ugghhhh.

    I’d have my c section again in a heartbeat without a second thought. I did my research and prepped myself for recovery and it was the best decision for me and my body. It’s sad how people try to shame or bully women into doing something they don’t want to do. Do what makes you happy and hold your head high.

  4. Jennifer says:

    My brother and I were both c – section babies. Neither of us are overweight, diabetic or have respiratory problems. My first child was c – section due to being breach. Until he shows signs of any of this, I’m not going to let this bother me.

  5. Adaora says:

    I gave birth to two of my children naturally and the last two through c-section and all of them are doing fine. My third born is so healthy and energetic that reading this rubbish from someone who is not a doctor makes me mad. I had no other option than to go through c-section twice and if i have to go through it again, i will do it again. My advice to you Mr writer is that you stick with what you know and don’t put unnecessary fear into the hearts of women. These women might make a wrong decision and risk their lives.

  6. Kylie says:

    A study with a sample size of only 18 births is hardly statistically significant. But If you actually read the the abstract of the journal article cited, it was a study of 64 births, 27 being cesarean deliveries (still not a huge sample size), but regardless undermines the credibility of the author.

  7. SANDRA says:

    I truly believe that it’s a wonderful thing that so many studies are being done to ensure thay we do everything in our power to have healthy babies.At the same time I think we have to be careful about these articles that do not give the full study scope. What i mean by that is that most woman who end up having cesareans due to complications from the inability to go through vaginal births what this article is not telling us is the womens health history and other factors that could potentially lead children to be proned to having these health conditions as they develop. I have had two selective cesereans and that was the best choice for me. Although many people including my own OBGY was not in agreement. If you are pregnant and reading this and you are not sure about what to do, please always go with your gut.I did and i have two beautiful healthy boys with no respiratory problems no allergies and growing well. So what u need to do is eat healthy make right choices while pregnant go to your prenatal appointments and believe u me that will pay off. So as i have always said pregancy is like Politics you will find opinions and recommendations good and bad take all the information from good sources and u make the final decision that is best for you and your baby.

  8. Leonidas says:

    i seen that it causes problems like resp problems and diabeates, would it be the cause of absence seizures in a child age 4?

  9. Amelia says:

    This article makes no sense and I think it’s a bunch of BS! I’m not even close to being a doctor but if I would have to guess a c-section would be the best way for a baby to be born. I don’t see how it could possibly do anything to a babies DNA and make them more prone to anything. The people who wrote this article need to do more research!

  10. jej03 says:

    Some of the women commenting on here need to get a freaking clue and learn some reading comprehension skills.

    Also, Mr. Whatcott, I have to disagree with this line in your article: “Babies may be able to out grow some of these issues like diabetes and the respiratory issues, but there’s also a chance that they don’t.”

    No one ‘grows out’ of type 1 diabetes (I’m a type 1 myself and am well versed being as I’ve lived with it for 20 years now). Type 1 diabetes means insulin-dependent from diagnosis until, well, forever, whether that’s death or a cure. And type 1 diabetes is what the research (limited as it is) found the increased probability of.

  11. Ellie says:

    What a load of BS!! You have no right to tell women what they want when it comes to delivering their babies. You pretty much imply that all the women out there who have had c-sections have babies with altered DNA, how rude!! It isn’t always up to the mother what kind of delivery she is going to have. If a c-section is the difference between having a healthy mother and baby and some so-called DNA differences, most mothers and doctors will make the right choice. I believe your about me section says you’re an English major, not an OB-GYN and I didn’t see anything about you having a degree or specializing in genetics. Stick to what you know which is thrift shops and crossword puzzles and leave the birthing process to the professionals.

  12. Trisha says:

    I am greatly disappointed that Everyday Family would allow such a poorly written article be posted on their site. The manner in which Jace Whatcott has described this study is insensitive and unfactual. Any article discussing a new study should be written by someone in the medical field. This article did little except to confuse and spread fear. I have lost my trust in Everyday Family.

  13. Ashley says:

    If I may some people choose to have a planned c section my doctor asked me if I wanted to have a planned c section or if I wanted to deliver my second baby naturally like I did my first. I think this article isn’t.for the mom’s who didn’t have a choice but to those who do a planned c section just simply for convenience. If you also read the end of the article it said Medically necessary c-sections aside, do studies like this one influence your thoughts on opting for a c-section when there is a choice?” Now some women want a c section this article is for the women that CHOOSE to have a c section not those the NEED a c section

  14. Ashley says:

    Thank you for the edits you made to the article and the additional links below! Information is vital to share and doing so in a sensitive manner is vital. Thank you again for listening, reflecting, and making changes.

  15. Angela says:

    My thoughts are I have two children, 4 and 5, I had them natural but it is something that sometimes can’t be done. Some situations occur where you have to have a C-section and it can’t be helped. The main point of the article is just to say it is best to have your baby naturally but if it can’t happen, it can’t happen. Just relax and flow with whatever happens. If a c-section is required, so be it. The important thing is that you and your baby make it through safe and healthy.

  16. Michele says:

    I personally having Autistic Twins who will be 5 August 14th. I’m gonna say I have already havibg a C-section questioned it causing issues for my children because i was raised & know about birds & why they need to break out of there shells doing it for them they’re most likely goinh to die, the ones that live have issues & don’t tend to live as long. with that being said I personally lived a horrific life therapist & psychologists in & out of the hospital for 4 years because of all the trauma I went through. First panick attack while standing in my crib. My point 1) my mother had me at 15 vaginally.2) I am a text book miracle specialists have said, my own therapist of 4 years has left the room in tears a man, So mow my point to all of this

  17. Corey says:

    Considering c-sections aren’t by choice and have a recovery time of 6 weeks and up depending on the person vs a few days if you had your baby Naturally, sorry but giving birth the way our bodies where meant to is the easy way. Maybe I might be to sensitive on this topic but why do people imply that having c-sections are the easy way out. I was in Labor for 46 hours, some how during the time i was admitted and in the hospital I had gotten an infection and had a fever that wouldn’t go away and trust me when i say this, the only reason why I ended up having a c-section was because I wasn’t dilating past 9.5 and My son started to show signs of distress.

  18. Mary says:

    This article actually disgusts me. As a new mother who had a c-section, this is one more thing to add to my list of disappointments. I was so excited to be a mom and so quickly learned so many things about the ugly world that surrounds such a beautiful experience. I never thought parenthood would be so political. I never thought there would be so many parents judging other parents. I thought it would be more like a community…a bond of some kind. And now, the “experts” are joining the bandwagon of ridiculousness. I already put enough guilt on myself that my baby went breech in the last few days and I had to have an emergency c-section, but now you’re telling me that this may lead to changes in my DNA? We have no control in having c-sections or not (well, most of us don’t). Much like many of us do not have a choice in breastfeeding or not. Those women that are lucky enough to have a healthy baby quickly and easily, vaginally, and also breastfeed, I’m thrilled for you – truly. But know that this does NOT mean you are better than the rest of us or more qualified as a mother…or that you’re baby is going to be smarter or more prepared for this world. Ridiculous. Our children will all respond by OUR actions and watching US as role models throughout life. And…by God’s Plan (just like everything else we have NO control over).

  19. Lisa says:

    Well I’m getting ready to give birth to my 3rd child after 13yrs and had planned on having a C-section but after this article I’m a little worried. My youngest is now 13 had to be born through C-section because she was 10lbs… Now I’m unsure what to do any suggestions?

    • Mary says:

      Yes, do what is best for you and your baby. Let your doctor guide you and stop reading these ridiculous articles. By now, you surely know how to be a mother – follow your natural instincts.

  20. Kaeleigh says:

    What a terrible article to read! One in three pregnancies results in a c-section. If it were really that risky, the chance of needing one during delivery wouldn’t be so high. I highly doubt there was enough research to make such a huge assumption about c-sections but this article should definitely be removed. Mothers don’t need to read this to feel worse about any decisions they had to make. This is too much opinion and not enough fact at all. Clearly not written by a female.

    • jej03 says:

      But do you know *why* one in three pregnancies result in c-sections? Have you studied what happens to make those c-sections necessary? I’ll tell you the biggest reason – unnecessary inductions. When they fail – and they usually do – then a woman is pressured or guilted or it’s so far gone that she NEEDS a c-section. And that is ridiculous.

      No one is trying to make a mother feel bad for having an emergency/non-elective c-section. Those that are ‘too posh to push’ and have elective c-sections should think about this kind of stuff, though. I for one am really glad to have read this article (though I already read it on I Fucking Love Science a few weeks ago), because I am a type 1 diabetic (diagnosed at a very young age) and that alone makes the risk of my children having type 1 increased, and now I know that the c-sections I had with all 3 of mine (first one was emergency, second and third because I’m high risk – thanks diabetes) has possibly elevated that risk so now I know what to look for. Information about this kind of stuff so I can possibly prepare is WAY better than being surprised about stuff later on. I don’t know why other people don’t feel the same way instead of feeling like someone is trying to persecute them. Sheesh.

  21. Char says:

    I agree that this is a very inaccurate and inconsiderate article for those of us who had to have an emergency C-Section in order to save our babies life. My two children who were both delivered by C-Section are both healthy, normal, talented, and smart (praise God). Our family is blessed and it is definitely true that you should not believe everything you read on the internet. All of these case studies do not make sense unless you are doing an actual study on every child delivered by C-Section in the entire world, then you would get your true and accurate results. Whoever is the owner of this company really need to screen these articles before they are posted.

    • jej03 says:

      Where in this article did it talk about shaming people who had to have EMERGENCY C-SECTIONS. Don’t put your feelings about things into the point of the article because it’s not talking about you. You shouldn’t feel guilty for having a non-elective c-section because it wasn’t your fault. But if you do feel guilty, that’s on you – don’t put that guilt off on others.

      • Sara says:

        You should really stop trolling the comments section. Everyone has the right to choose what they want to do with their bodies. If someone doesn’t want to push they don’t have to. End of story.

      • Mary says:

        The guilt we feel is not being put off on others….it’s being put on us by all of these stupid articles and we have just as much right to share our thoughts/feelings as the rest of you. I am proud of the women that are strong enough to speak out against the ridiculousness. Put yourselves in the shoes of a woman who has had no choice, of a woman who has not been so lucky. We are all different – get it.

  22. Aliya says:

    Never had a c-section and would never want to. Women’s bodies are MADE to give birth!!! There is no reason to choose a c-section but changing DNA? sounds like science fiction to me.

  23. cassie says:

    I had to have a C with my first son (non progressive labor for 8 hours and stories of my mom in law nearly dying with my husband’s birth) and found that his head was too large to fit into my hips (9 1/2″ head and weighing in at 10lbs, 1oz), opted for a C with my second because my first was so large (I figured that they all would be large) and she ended up being normal (7lbs, 5oz)

    With my 3rd, I tried to go the natural route again (8 hours of labor) and he ended up being an emergency C and was literally stuck in my hips (nurse told me afterwards of the doctor having to straddle the bed to try and pull him out because he was wedged in so badly). He weighed in at 9lbs, 15oz and had a 10″ head and a very nasty bruise ring around his head and ears.

    With my 4th and last, I had no choice about the C. After her birth was the quickest recovery (up about 8 hours later and walking around, and hiking the state fair a week later).

    My sister has perfect “birthing hips” and has had 4 kids, all natural with no drugs and her kids are all healthy but have all kinds of skin allergies.

    This had to be a load of bull because my kids haven’t been sick a day in their lives, no asthma or diabetes or anything, and they rarely ever get a cold. My friend had her kid natural and her son is morbidly obese, sick all the time (colds, flu, ear infections, non-ending strep throat, etc.) so how is this study correct?

    I think it had more to do with genetics, healthy living, eating correctly, and genetics more than anything for whether or not the kids are always sick or not. I also don’t believe that a study of 18 C’s is enough to prove or disprove anything. You would need a study of 100’s of C’s vs. hundreds of V births to prove anything. I also think it’s wrong to make those of us who did try and fail (through no fault of our own) feel bad or that we have “doomed” our children to a lifetime of sickness and problems because someone wanted people to do it their way. I had a hard enough time trying to deal with the fact that I hadn’t given birth normally and feeling like a failure for years because of having a C without this.

    Also noted: did anyone notice the link just under this article? “Did You Make a Birth Plan for Your C-Section? Why You Should” It kind of made me laugh, to see the headline under this article.

  24. Kristy says:

    This article is ridiculous. Are you telling me that every person in the world who has type 1 diabetes, respiratory diseases and are obese were C-section babies? REALLY?! How utterly stupid and ridiculous. My children are both C-section babies (elective) because I was considered high risk. They are perfectly fine and have the normal childhood illnesses (strep and ear infections) and neither has any problem with any of the 3 things listed here. Almost every child at some point gets a sore throat or cold, ear infection or strep. If your child goes to a public school or a daycare, it is just a given. My son is 3 and my daughter is 7, and by the way, both are thin. Yeah, obesity, right? These are all things that are hereditary to an extent…if you have obesity in your family, your child is more likely to become obese, and as a result develop diabetes and respiratory issues. Not saying it is a certainty, because your metabolism is individual to you and what you do in relation to your diet and exercise can certainly change that outcome. Obesity is linked to diabetes and respiratory issues. That’s not to say everyone who is obese suffers from these things, but they are at greater risk. But, to say that a C-section causes these things is irresponsible journalism at best. It is a matter of opinion and ill informed at that. And as for a “posh” experience, there is nothing “posh” about having your belly sliced open, your internal organs lifted out onto your belly while a baby is pulled out, your internal organs than being put back in your body and being resituated in the proper place, being stitched back up and not being able to move, twist, laugh or cough without intense pain and then being forced to walk after you have been sliced across your midsection about 5-6 inches. There is nothing “posh” about being on pain meds for a week to 2 weeks to manage your pain and hoping you don’t get behind your pain and then have to catch up with the painkiller because you tried to tough it out. There is nothing “posh” about trying to nurse your baby while dealing with your incision and praying that the baby doesn’t bump it or kick it, sending you into a whole new level of pain. This article was definitely written by a clueless man who has never given birth or been pregnant, so what does he know about a C-section and how it feels?! Jace Whatcott, before you write an article that is clearly biased toward vaginal birth and condemning of C-sections, it would behoove you to get your facts straight. Unbelievably ignorant article.

    • jej03 says:

      You do realize he was just writing & paraphrasing from a journal and other articles about this same subject, right? Don’t be so dense.

  25. Brittany says:

    There are people out there who choose c section and have to ask there dr for one. I am one of those and no it wasn’t so I could pick the birthday or something like that. I had one child natural and it was very traumatizing and swore I wouldn’t ever do it again. But I ended up pregnant 5 years later and was terrified of what was to come. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the anxiety of it or the actual event because of the previous experience. So I asked my Dr and he said I could choose the other Dr’s in the practice didn’t really hold the same opinion much like some of you are one minded toward c sections. I could deliver vaginally and choose not to and would do it again in a heartbeat. It was so much better of an expense but I do agree that this article is ludicrous. But there’s also isn’t enough support out there for elective c sections. Most of my own family didn’t like my decision and tried to talk me out of it but I stood my ground and not let it phase me. My baby girl was born with an Apgar score of 9.9 nurse said she was 10 but they can’t give any baby a 10. And she has been healthy since and now she’s almost a year old. Be more open minded about birth and delivery.

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