C-sections are generally regarded as a safer method of delivery, with many birth experts opting for them in emergency situations as an attempt to save the lives of mothers and babies.

London - Babies who are delivered by caesarean lack important bacteria that could protect them from a host of disorders in childhood and later life, say researchers.

The finding is the latest concern over the increasingly popular method of delivery, which accounts for one in four births in England.

Being given breastmilk or formula was also found to have an effect in the study of healthy infants.

Some 25 percent were born by caesarean and 42 percent breastfed exclusively at four months.

Babies born surgically lacked specific bacteria found in those who were delivered naturally.

Infants fed on formula, rather than being breastfed, also lacked the bacteria, according to the study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Experts believe gut bacteria play a role in stimulating the immune system.

Infants born surgically are not exposed to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal, delaying their exposure to microbes that kickstart the immune system.

Researchers said the findings would increase concern about lifelong effects for babies as the caesarean rate soars.

Previous research has suggested that children born surgically are at double the risk of obesity in childhood, with a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes and asthma.

The rate of surgical deliveries in England is almost 25 percent, adding up to more than 190,000 a year. In some parts of London one in three hospital deliveries is by caesarean.

The potential long-term consequences of decisions regarding mode of delivery and infant diet are “not to be underestimated”, said the study by the University of Alberta. - Daily Mail