BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Cesarean delivery accounts for nearly one-third of all births in the U.S. and contributes to an additional $38 billion in healthcare costs each year. Although Cesarean delivery has a long record of improving maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, increased utilization over time has yielded public health concerns and calls for reductions. Observational evidence suggests Cesarean delivery is associated with increased maternal postpartum weight, which may have significant implications for the obesity epidemic. Previous literature, however, typically does not address selection biases stemming from correlations of pre-pregnancy weight and reproductive health with Cesarean delivery.
We used fetal malpresentation as a natural experiment as it predicts Cesarean delivery but is uncorrelated with pre-pregnancy weight or maternal health. We used hospital administrative data (including fields used in vital birth record) from the state of Wisconsin from 2006 to 2013 to create a sample of mothers with at least two births. Using propensity score methods, we compared maternal weight prior to the second pregnancy of mothers who delivered via Cesarean due to fetal malpresentation to mothers who deliver vaginally.
We found no evidence that Cesarean delivery in the first pregnancy causally leads to greater maternal weight, BMI, or movement to a higher BMI classification prior to the second pregnancy.
After accounting for correlations between pre-pregnancy weight, gestational weight gain, and mode of delivery, there is no evidence of a causal link between Cesarean delivery and maternal weight retention.
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