Doctors may need to rethink their quick decisions for c-sections
Cesarean childbirth may weaken the attachment of a mother to her baby, a study published today claims. Scientists found women who had chosen to give birth naturally were more emotionally responsive to the cries of their child than women who had a cesarean delivery.
The study found that areas of cesarean mothers’ brains believed to regulate emotions, motivation and habitual behavior were not as strongly activated as they were in natural-birth mothers.
Researchers believe the explanation may be a “bonding” hormone released in the brain during labor.
Oxytocin, which is known as the “love hormone” or “cuddle chemical”, creates feelings of attachment in both humans and animals.
It is also produced in women during breast feeding and sex.
Between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of all births in the UK are now by cesarean section.
The procedure has also controversially been linked to the incidence of post-natal depression.
Doctors may advise a mother to have a cesarean section for health-related reasons, but increasingly the procedure is being seen as a “lifestyle choice”. The “too posh to push” label has been applied to women who pay for private cesareans.
Women who delay motherhood are more likely to have the operation because childbirth risks increase with age.
The new research, carried out by British and US scientists, involved 12 American mothers having their first baby. Six had natural deliveries and six cesarean sections.
Two to four weeks after the births, the women underwent scans of their brains while listening to the recorded cries of their babies. The scans showed that several brain regions were more highly activated in natural-birth women while hearing the sound of their babies crying.
These were areas of the brain that dealt with emotions, empathy, motivation, reward-seeking and habit.
The findings are published today in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Dr James Swain, from the Child Study Center at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, led the research team.
He said: “We wondered which brain areas would be less active in parents who delivered by cesarean section, given that this mode of delivery has been associated with decreased maternal behaviors in animal models, and a trend for increased postpartum (post-delivery] depression in humans.
“Our results support the theory that variations in delivery conditions such as with cesarean section – which alters the neuro-hormonal experiences of childbirth – might decrease the responsiveness of the human maternal brain in the early postpartum.”
The groundbreaking research could now be used to help in the early detection of families at risk from post-natal depression and attachment problems, he said.
Via The Scotsman