|Vaginal Births May Provide Brain Benefits that C-Sections Do Not|
Yale University released a study this week that could drastically change the way that scientists, doctors, midwives, and parents view the decision to give birth vaginally or by cesarean. According to the new research, vaginal birth – but not C-section – releases a mega dose of a certain brain-boosting chemical in newborns.
The brain chemical in question is known as UCP2. This protein has been found to promote brain function, protection, and stimulates development in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with short and long-term memory and spatial orientation. Without UCP2, as the study found, brain development is severely impeded.
It is thought that newborns are built to withstand the stress of normal labor, but the mechanism is not fully understood. The UCP2 protein may provide an answer. The study authors speculated that the physical stress of the birth passage may be what triggers such a dramatic release of UCP2 during vaginal birth.
In contrast – UCP2 is released in much lower amounts during cesarean birth because it is arguably not as physically stressful for newborns. C-section babies are born relatively quickly, with little change in their oxygen levels. This relative lack of stress may make cesareans seem more attractive to some.
However, if there is truly a relationship between newborn stress and increased UCP2 levels, maybe stress is not the enemy. In fact it would seem that, in the case of childbirth, normal physiologic stress may be a crucial factor in building a stronger brain.
As tempting as it may be, we cannot yet apply these findings to people, nor can we conclude from these findings that birth by cesarean has lifetime ill effects on the brain development and behavior of adult humans. But this study does seem to suggest that there may be adverse, long-term effects of cesareans on behavior and cognition, and this topic should be more thoroughly explored in future studies.
Source: GO MEDIA: Written by JILL BENSON