Although the literature on the association between birth by cesarean delivery and children's anthropometry has continued to increase, only a few studies have examined the association of cesarean delivery with measures of body composition assessed using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), which allows the differentiation of fat and lean mass overall and in specific regions of the body.
To investigate whether differences exist in DXA-measured body composition between children and adolescents born by cesarean delivery and those born by vaginal delivery.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This prospective cohort study included singleton children of mothers enrolled between April 1999 and July 2002 in Project Viva, a longitudinal prebirth cohort of mother-child pairs in Massachusetts. The children had at least 1 DXA scan at a follow-up visit during middle childhood (2007-2010) and/or early adolescence (2013-2016). Data analysis was performed from October 16, 2020, to May 9, 2021.
Mode of delivery (cesarean vs vaginal).
Main Outcomes and Measures
Total lean mass index, total and truncal fat mass indexes, visceral adipose tissue (VAT), subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue, and total abdominal adipose tissue (TAAT) were estimated using DXA. Multivariable linear regression models were used to estimate the association between mode of delivery and DXA-derived outcomes with adjustment for confounders. Stabilized inverse probability weights were used to control for potential selection bias owing to loss to follow-up.
A total of 975 mother-child pairs were included in the study. The mean (SD) maternal age at study entry was 32.0 (5.5) years, and the mean (SD) self-reported prepregnancy body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared) was 25.0 (5.4). Of the children included in the study, 491 (50%) were female; 212 (22%) were born by cesarean delivery and 763 (78%) by vaginal delivery. Body composition in middle childhood as measured by DXA did not differ by mode of delivery. In early adolescence, participants born by cesarean delivery had a significantly greater total lean mass index (β, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.0-0.7), total fat mass index (β, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.1-1.1), truncal fat mass index (β, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.0-0.5), VAT area (β, 4.7; 95% CI, 0.9-8.6), and TAAT area (β, 23.8; 95% CI, 0.8-46.8) in a model adjusted for child sex and age at the time of DXA measurements; maternal age, educational level, race and ethnicity, total gestational weight gain, and smoking status during pregnancy; birth-weight-per-gestational-age z score; and paternal BMI. Associations between mode of delivery and measures of adiposity were found for cesarean deliveries performed in the absence of labor (total fat mass index: β, 1.3; 95% CI, 0.3-2.3; truncal fat mass index: β, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.1-1.0; VAT area: β, 10.7; 95% CI, 3.1-18.3; TAAT area: β, 47.3; 95% CI, 2.3-92.2). There were no associations after adjustment for maternal self-reported prepregnancy BMI (total lean mass index: β, 0.2; 95% CI, -0.1 to 0.6; total fat mass index: β, 0.4; 95% CI, -0.1 to 0.9; truncal fat mass index: β, 0.2; 95% CI, -0.1 to 0.4; VAT area: β, 3.0; 95% CI, -0.6 to 6.7; TAAT area: β, 13.6; 95% CI, -8.2 to 35.3).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this cohort study, adolescents born by cesarean delivery had significantly higher measures of lean mass, fat mass, and central adiposity compared with those born by vaginal delivery, but associations did not remain after adjustment for the mothers' self-reported prepregnancy BMI. The findings suggest that the association between birth by cesarean delivery and adolescent adiposity may partly be explained by maternal self-reported prepregnancy BMI.