BABIES born by caesarean-section are 33% more likely to develop autism and around 17% more likely to develop ADHD than babies delivered by natural birth, according to a study which looked at the births of around 20 million babies across 19 countries.
The findings, which took data from over 60 studies carried out since 1999, demonstrated an association between c-section births and the aforementioned conditions, but by no means proved a direct causal link.
Authors of the study have suggested that other factors are likely to have an influence on the results - such as the age of the mother and or if the baby is at risk of a premature birth.
It also doesn't take into account exposure to antibiotics after the birth, something scientists claim could also play a part.
In most cases, c-sections are performed safely and are often planned, but of course, many are un-planned and are done in the best interest of the baby, the mother or both. Due to this, health implications that lead to a c-section birth are likely to be responsible for the development of such conditions, rather than the method of birth itself.
Prof Andrew Shennan, Professor of Obstetrics at Kings College London, told the Daily Telegraph: “The need for caesarean is often caused by problems that could influence brain function, such as a poorly functioning placenta. It is highly unlikely the caesarean delivery itself is causal in these mental health conditions, from our current understanding of brain physiology and the effects of caesarean.
“Women should not be alarmed by the need for a caesarean which is often performed to reduce risk to their baby.”
Dr Pat O’Brien, Consultant Obstetrician and Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists added: “This systematic review and meta-analysis shows an association between caesarean birth and autism and ADHD, but a number of underlying factors which may have led to the development of these conditions were not accounted for.
Therefore, the findings of this paper do not show that caesarean birth leads to autism and ADHD.”
It's estimated that around 1% of the population of Ireland is on the autism spectrum.