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Cesarean birth and the growth of Yucatec Maya and Toba/Qom children


Amanda Veile, Claudia Valeggia, Karen L Kramer


Objective, Cesarean delivery is often epidemiologically associated with childhood obesity. However, little attention is paid to post‐birth modulatory environments, and most studies are conducted in settings where obesity arises for a number of reasons in addition to birth mode. We therefore assess population differences in the relationship between birth mode and childhood growth using data from rural and peri‐urban Latin American indigenous populations, and test predictions developed using life history theory. Methods, Child height and weight were measured monthly in 80 Yucatec Maya and 58 Toba/Qom children aged 1‐48 months (2007‐2014, 3812 observations). Random‐effects linear mixed models were used to compare children's growth by population, sex, and birth mode, accounting for potential confounders. Results, Cesarean delivery rates were 47% (Toba/Qom) and 20% (Yucatec Maya). Childhood obesity and overweight rates were low in both populations. Cesarean‐delivered children had significantly greater weight gain (but similar height grain) compared to vaginally‐delivered children. By age 4, cesarean delivered Yucatec Maya girls and boys, and Toba/Qom boys (not girls), had significantly higher weight‐for‐age compared to vaginally‐delivered children from their own sex and population. Conclusions, This provides one of the first attempts to document differences in children's growth patterns according to mode of birth in modernizing indigenous populations. Cesarean delivery is associated with young children's growth patterns, even in the absence of many obesity‐inducing factors. There are also population, age, and sex differences in the relationship between birth mode and childhood weight trajectories that warrant future investigation.

Last Updated: 3/24/21