Researchers Find Infants Born Via C-Section May Have A Different Reaction To Common Vaccines

When picturing a birth scene — whether from a movie or firsthand experience — many people imagine the mother pushing as a doctor helps deliver her baby vaginally. However, a growing number of births take place via cesarean section, or C-section, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Though rates vary by country, C-sections are quite common in the U.S., accounting for nearly one in three births (per WebMD).

C-section deliveries occur for several, sometimes life-saving, reasons. Among the most common are stalled labor, abnormal positioning of the baby, fetal distress, and the presence of diagnosed birth defects (per Healthline). Both planned and emergency C-sections can be critical in keeping both mom and baby safe.

However, this type of delivery can also come with some risks. Potential complications can occur during the surgery, such as anesthesia reactions and injury to the baby, or while recovering from a C-section, such as heavy bleeding and infection. New research is also shining a light on how babies born via C-section may react differently to vaccines compared to those born vaginally.

Babies born via C-section have a weaker response to some vaccinations

In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers looked at babies' immune responses to early childhood vaccinations, comparing those who were born via C-section and those delivered vaginally. The study found that infants delivered via C-section had lower levels of antibodies, indicating the potential for weaker immunity compared to babies born vaginally.

However, study author Debby Bogaert explained to U.S. News that this doesn't mean children born via C-section shouldn't get vaccinated. "Although we observed differences in how the two different groups of babies responded to the vaccines, there was still enough of an immune response in both groups to provide protection against infection," she explained.

The study focused on vaccinations that protect against certain lung infections, including pneumonia and meningitis. Besides comparing the mode of delivery, it also underlined a difference in vaccine response between babies who are breastfed and those who aren't. This indicates that breastfed infants have higher antibody counts compared to formula-fed children.