Caesarean babies do just as well at school as everyone else - NZ study

A new study has revealed children born via caesarean section (CS) have just as good NCEA results as those born the traditional way.

Researchers at The University of Auckland came to that conclusion after looking at 111,000 New Zealand births.

It had long been thought different microbes in the guts of CS babies may influence their academic performance. But the study found no link between birth type and test scores or university entrance rates.

"We find that caesarean section is not related to educational outcomes, suggesting that even if the infant gut microbiota is altered in caesarean section, it does not appear to have a measurable impact on adolescent academic achievement," the study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on Wednesday, said.

Previous research into the potential link had thrown up mixed results. 

The new study looked at children born in New Zealand between 1996 and 1998, of which about 18 percent were born via CS. 

While the initial analysis suggested there was a link between being born via CS and lower NCEA test scores, once adjustments were made to "account for the potential confounding impact of sociodemographic factors" - such as comparing results from siblings born via different delivery methods - it vanished. 

"For CS delivery to result in lower cognitive ability and educational outcomes through disruption to the gut microbiota several events need to occur," the study said. 

"Firstly, that CS delivery results in microbial composition significantly divergent from vaginally delivered infants. Secondly, the timing of this disruption to the gut microbiota occurs in a sensitive window thus causing permanent physiological changes in the gut-brain axis. 

"Thirdly, the magnitude of the effect of caesarean delivery on the microbiota needs to be sufficient to alter a measurable outcome in humans, such as cognitive function and educational attainment. Fourth, the effect must persist across many years (around 16 for the education attainment measure used in this study), and not be substantially diminished by other influences the child experiences over this time."

Bigger influences on a child's chances of educational success are genetics and sociodemographic factors, the researchers said. 

"While mode of delivery may impact early patterns of gut colonisation, it remains to be proven that this, in turn, has a meaningful impact on later cognitive and educational outcomes in humans."