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C-section delivery could make having future children harder, study finds

Researchers remain unsure about why this trend has emerged

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A new study conducted by researchers from Penn State found that women who deliver their first babies via C-section are less likely to conceive future children than those who deliver naturally. 

Based on their observational study, it’s unclear why getting pregnant is harder the second time around for these women, though the researchers hypothesized several reasons for why this could be the case. 

“It is possible that pelvic or [fallopian] tubal scarring as a result of being exposed to open air and contaminants may affect subsequent attempts at getting pregnant,” said researcher Dr. Richard Legro. “It is also possible that scar formation from the surgical wound in the uterus, though not in an area where pregnancies implant, may have lingering effects on the process of implantation.” 

What happens after the first baby?

To better understand why women who have C-sections are less likely to conceive after their first child, the researchers followed over 2,000 women through the first three years after they gave birth. All of the women were under the age of 35 when the study began, and approximately 600 of them delivered their first child via C-section. 

Over the course of the study, the women reported on both their successful conceptions and unprotected intercourse. The study revealed that women who delivered naturally were about 80 percent likely to be pregnant again within three years. However, those who delivered via C-section were under 70 percent likely to conceive a second time. 

The researchers explained that those who had C-section deliveries for their first babies were more likely to have other conditions that could make pregnancy complicated, including obesity and older age, among others. While these factors could certainly come into play, the researchers took several factors into account when analyzing these findings, including age, weight, and predisposition to conditions like diabetes and blood pressure. 

The study ruled out excessive pain or trauma post-C-section as an underlying cause, as the women in the study were all trying to get pregnant a second time. With all things considered, those who delivered with C-sections were still around 10 percent less likely to get pregnant a second time. 

For those who may be thinking about opting for a C-section over a natural delivery the first time around, these findings highlight the difficulties many women face in future conception. 

“It’s important that women who elect to have a C-section know that there is a chance they may have difficulty conceiving in the future,” Dr. Legro said.  

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