(NaturalNews) No one would suggest a pregnant woman forgo a Caesarian section, commonly called a C-section, if that kind of surgical birth is needed to save the life of mom and/or baby. However, C-sections are too often performed for other reasons -- even because the surgical procedure allows women, and doctors, to fit a birth into a specific schedule.
In fact, statistics (reported in the New England Journal of Medicine) show the C-section delivery rate is the U.S. is over 30 percent -- double the number of C-sections performed in other parts of the world. And the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that 2.5 percent of all the surgical C-sections in the U.S. are done on demand, not because they are medically necessary. Often, C-sections are performed because the mom fears pain or just because it makes childbirth supposedly more convenient.
For expectant moms who are weighing whether to have natural birth or a surgical C-section, a new Henry Ford Hospital study offers important information. It turns out that C-section babies appear to be far more susceptible to developing allergies by age two than babies born naturally.
The research, just presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting underway in San Antonio, Texas, found that babies born by C-section are five times more likely to develop allergies than babies born naturally. These toddlers are at risk of having allergic reactions when exposed to common allergens in the home such as those from dogs, cats and dust mites.
"This further advances the hygiene hypothesis that early childhood exposure to microorganisms affects the immune system's development and onset of allergies," Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, chair of Henry Ford Department of Health Sciences and the study's lead author, said in a press statement.
"We believe a baby's exposure to bacteria in the birth canal is a major influencer on their immune system."
Dr. Johnson explained that C-section babies have a pattern of "at risk" microorganisms in their gastrointestinal tract that puts them at a higher risk of developing the antibody Immunoglobulin E, or IgE, when exposed to allergens. IgE in particular has long been linked to development of allergies and asthma.
Over the past few years, mainstream physicians and scientists have increasingly given credence to the so-called "hygiene theory" or "hygiene hypothesis" that many natural health researchers have promoted for decades. Simply put, exposure to viruses, bacteria and fungi in early life (and the endotoxins those pathogens produce) seem to help the immune system develop and become strong.
For example, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that children living on farms are significantly less likely to develop asthma than other kids -- most likely because they are exposed to a variety of germs that actually help them develop healthy immune systems.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.