Study questions why children born by caesarean section may have developmental delays compared to children born by vaginal delivery.

Using NAPLAN test results of 5,000 year 3 students, researchers from the University of Melbourne found the delays were equivalent to a child missing about 35 days of a school year.

Melbourne University’s Cain Polidano described the findings as relatively small but significant, reports ABC NEWS.

“There is already a bit of evidence that shows that caesarean birth is related to a number of negative childhood health outcomes, including risks of ADHD, autism and also asthma”, Dr Polidano said.

“So our research speaks to that literature which shows that there’s a link, but what we do now is look at impacts on another outcome, which is child development.”

Dr Polidano said at this stage the link is “only correlational” as “it’s very difficult to establish causation because you can’t do randomised, controlled trials, which is the gold standard.”

“We’ve gone some way down the path of trying to establish causal relationships, we’ve still got a lot more work to do.”

Professor of physiology Joel Bornstein said it was possible gut bacteria picked up in the birth canal by babies born by vaginal delivery may give them a distinct developmental advantage down the track.

“Caesarean birth is associated with a different colonisation of the gut by the bacteria that form a large ecosystem inside the gastrointestinal tract,” Professor Bornstein said.

“Immediately after caesarean birth, the bacteria present are different from those that are present after a vaginal birth. There’s quite a lot of data now indicating that the gut bacteria influence the nervous system.

“So we believe, although there’s no way of proving it at this point, that this may be the difference that leads to the cognitive changes later on in life.”

“While we think that there’s nothing wrong with mums having greater agency of choice over mode of delivery, we also think it’s really important that they have the best information available,” Dr Polidano said.

But Professor Bornstein acknowledged the findings of the research may be controversial.

“I think [the findings] are going to be disturbing to quite a number of people,” he said.

“Certainly people will feel that they’ve done things in the best all possible knowledge at the time and now we’re saying, ‘Well, maybe that’s not quite so good’,” he said.

“One thing we do know is that these effects are not going to be as large as the difference that mum and dads can make by providing and stimulating and supportive environment,” he said.

“That’s certainly going to be more important than whether they had a C-section.”

Find more on the study HERE.

Vaginal seeding

Doctors have raised concerns about the birth practice ‘Vaginal seeding’ following a caesarean and are urging parents not to buy into it.

‘Vaginal seeding’ reportedly originated in Australia and has since grown in popularity in the UK, with mums requesting their newborn babies have vaginal fluid rubbed in their face, eyes and skin immediately after a caesarean birth via swab.

Doctors have warned parents of the serious risks vaginal seeding poses to a baby, including infections such as group-B streptococcus, E. coli and a range of sexually transmitted infections. Read more about this here

What do you think about the findings of this study?

Share your comments below


  • I’d need more evidence than just a study to be able to form an opinion either way. Regarding vaginal seeding I agree with the findings that suggest it has potential risk factors.


  • Lets get one thing straight. Marriage equality does not and will not change anything in terms of parenting.. Same sex parents already have the right to do so… Pauline hanson needs to learn when to shut up!


  • Oh this is so unsound as a basis to confirm something like this as NAPLAN is considered an incomplete yardstick at the best of times for determining educational outcomes. So I think people whould just ignore the hell out of this!


  • I must say I think this is rubbish. My son was cesarean and my daughter vaginal and I can’t see any noticeable differences in their development. My mother-in-law cannot have a natural birth and has had 3 sons all cesarean and they are all quite bright. My husband does have Asperger’s, however, I can’t see how they can link autism to it as there are clear indications that autism is genetic and this can clearly be seen in my husband’s family history because there are others directly from his mother’s side who also have it.


  • I think this is another load of crap.


  • Have had them both ways – naturally and an emergency C-section. No difference in the children at all. If anything, the emergency C-section was brighter than the others.


  • Gosh I hope not. My first was an emergency c-section. Second had to use the vacuum. Third, she didn’t even cry, she was perfectly fine just a peaceful birth. They’re all clever and talented and each have different types of problems (allergies etc). Nothing is certain.


  • As a mum to four children, all who were a caesar through no fault of my own (I really, REALLY wanted a ‘normal’ birth) I would like to say, take this article with a grain of salt. All my children are fine other than asthma and that is probably genetic since I have it, as do my siblings, and both parents and other extended family. It’s all just a theory.


  • I would think long and thorough research of many thousands of parents over many years would need to be undertaken to prove this. I’m sceptical.


  • wow they need to study this more to work out the link if any. it seems like a big statement to make though and i’m not sure if i believe it


  • Seriously – another article to make c section mums feel bad?? Let’s look at the flip side – without a c section both myself and my child would have died….. I know what I prefer!


  • I found this article very interesting. May explain why my brother had asthma and I didn’t.


  • I doubt this study as well. My kids were born by caesarean and are clever cookies.


  • I’m not trusting that information, nothing delayed with my 3 babies, now adults, all delivered by C section


  • I’d rather a child who was a little bit behind their classmates than a child and/or mother who dies in childbirth. Bigger picture people.


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