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June 30, 2022

No link found between caesarean birth and food allergies

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Newborn baby delivered by caesarean.

Brought to you by Cosmos Magazine and The Echo

A study of 2,045 infants finds no significant link between allergies and delivery method.

While babies born through caesareans may lack some gut bacteria that would otherwise be gained through vaginal births, recent research has consistently shown that there is little evidence for caesarean births being responsible for asthma and allergies. A recent study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne, confirmed no link between caesarean births and food allergies during the first year of life.

This research, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, looked at 2,045 infants who underwent skin prick testing and an oral food challenge to test for allergy status. In this group, of the 30 per cent that were born by caesarean, 12.7 % had a food allergy, compared to 13.2per cent born vaginally, meaning there was no statistically significant difference between birthing methods.

“We found no meaningful differences in food allergy for infants born by caesarean delivery compared to those born by vaginal delivery,” says Rachel Peters, who led the study. “Additionally, there was no difference in likelihood of food allergy if the caesarean was performed before or after the onset of labour, or whether it was an emergency or elective caesarean.”

A potential link between caesarean births and allergies had long been suspected because of the difference in early microbial exposure compared to vaginal delivery.

“The infant immune system undergoes rapid development during the neonatal period,” says Peters. “The mode of delivery may interfere with the normal development of the immune system. Babies born by caesarean have less exposure to the bacteria from the mother’s gut and vagina, which influences the composition of the baby’s microbiome and immune system development. However, this doesn’t appear to play a major role in the development of food allergy.”

These findings will assist caregivers to better evaluate risks and benefits of caesarean birth, and provide reassurance to parents that such interventions do not lead to an increased risk of food allergy in their babies.

One in 10 infants, and one in 20 children over the age of five years in Australia, have a food allergy, one of the highest rates in the world. This research provides further good news to parents and children: 30per cent of peanut allergies and 90per cent of egg allergies naturally resolved by six years of age. These infants should be targeted for early intervention trials, such as oral immunotherapy.

“Prioritising research of these and future interventions for infants less likely to naturally outgrow their allergy would yield the most benefit for healthcare resources and research funding,” says Peters.

Interested in having science explained? Listen to our new podcast.


This article was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Qamariya Nasrullah. Qamariya Nasrullah holds a PhD in evolutionary development from Monash University and an Honours degree in palaeontology from Flinders University.

Published by The Echo in conjunction with Cosmos Magazine.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Test them all again at age 10, you will get very different results. Did anyone else notice kids didn’t seem to get food allergies before the 1980s? No human had ever been allergic to nuts before. What could nut oil and wheat protein have been used for that has cause all these never before seen allergies? I bet you could track this stuff on a timeline. How’s that Autism rate going. All quite a mystery.

    • Na – I just can’t help it. Kids didn’t get food allergies befor the 80s? As an infant I went into anaphylactic shock from consuming an egg. My mother had not had a C section and I can assure you it was well before the 1080’s. One of my sons suffered the same response on his first ingestion of cow’s milk. Early 80s!

      IF there are more instances of childhood food allergies, there could be any number of explanations. Best not to rush to sheet home the blame to some frivolity women are indulging in.

      I’m sure there are more C sections performed these days but there have also been considerable advancements in obstetric diagnostics and reductions in baby and maternal birthing mortality. Might these also be relevant circumstances?

      As for electing to have a Caesarian delivery, I’m told from reliable sources that post abdominal surgery recovery is no fun, especially with a newborn in the house. But if the occasional woman so elects I’d suggest that’s entirely up to the individual involved and you, until you have given birth, might be advised to hold your counsel.

      I know this will be difficult because you have such expert knowledge on every topic imaginable. And it was so very generous of you to give your imprimatur to Serena – I’m sure she’s relieved.

      You seem to love to analyse argument, Christian. Have you heard of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy? Or a non sequitur? If not look them up.

  2. In my case, if it wasn’t for two emergency caesareans, myself & my two adult daughters would not be here today.

    • But you didn’t do it to avoid getting stretched out, or not wanting the experience etc. Growing number of young ‘women’ elect caesarean birth which makes hospitals more money. Vested interests fund such studies that defend the practice. They use to say the same things about circumcision. To hell with the kids health. It’s different if you have no choice.

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