The incidence of caesarean sections has risen dramatically in the past decade due to mostly convenience for doctors and patients. However, sometimes convenience comes at a cost. Vaginal births trigger the expression of a protein in the brains of newborns that improves brain development and function in adulthood, a new study has revealed.
An increasing number of women, including some first-time mothers, are requesting a C-section, even when it's medically unnecessary. The medical profession is only happy to oblige. It's much faster and it's scheduled.
Most women are unaware that babies born by elective C-section are much more likely to develop health problems that many newborns who are delivered naturally do not experience. The babies may miss out on critical hormonal and physiological changes during labour which help babies develop.
A Danish study examining 34,000 deliveries
suggests babies born by C-section were up to four times more likely to have respiratory problems than those born naturally.
A recent study also showed that caesarean born babies are also at double the risk of becoming obese children
as those delivered naturally.
Women who have their first child by caesarean are also more likely to have placenta-related problems in their second pregnancy
, research suggests.
For the latest study, Yale School of Medicine researchers found that this protein expression is impaired in the brains of offspring delivered by C-sections.
The team, led by Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of the Department of Comparative Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, studied the effect of natural and surgical deliveries on mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in mice.
UCP2 is important for the proper development of hippocampal neurons and circuits.
This area of the brain is responsible for short- and long-term memory. UCP2 is involved in cellular metabolism of fat, which is a key component of breast milk, suggesting that induction of UCP2 by natural birth may aid the transition to breast feeding.
The researchers found that natural birth triggered UCP2 expression in the neurons located in the hippocampal region of the brain.
This was diminished in the brains of mice born via C-section. Knocking out the UCP2 gene or chemically inhibiting UCP2 function interfered with the differentiation of hippocampal neurons and circuits, and impaired adult behaviors related to hippocampal functions.
"These results reveal a potentially critical role of UCP2 in the proper development of brain circuits and related behaviors," Horvath said.
"The increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well," Horvath added.
The study was recently published in PLoS ONE.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.