Sunday, August 19, 2012


This article is somewhat annoying in that it focuses on the "stress" of vaginal birth, never mentioning how incredibly traumatic and stressful it is for a baby to be yanked out of the womb by c-section.

Extreme bias, but somewhat interesting information nonetheless.
"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.

UCP2 is a critical brain-booster for newborns that:

Promotes free-radical scavenging, protecting against brain damage
Promotes the formation of new synapses in the hippocampus
Protects against seizures, particularly when combined with breastmilk (which is high in fat and confers additional neuronal protection)
Assists in the digestion of breastmilk
May have long-lasting behavioral effects that carry on into adulthood

In the study researchers compared the brains of newborn mice that were born vaginally with those born by C-section, and found much higher amounts of UCP2 in the vaginally born mice. Mice born by C-section had some UCP2 but the levels were much lower and their production of UCP2 appeared to be impaired. Though the study was using mice, the research has profound implications for childbirth, especially concerning the practice of performing elective or non-medically necessary cesareans.

Is the Stress of Normal Birth Protective?

Why would UCP2, such a vital chemical for building stronger brains, be impacted by the type of birth one has? Interestingly, scientists know that UCP2 production is triggered by stress and that it helps cells survive under stressful conditions. Vaginal birth is a significant physiological stress for newborns, as their heads and bodies are repeatedly squeezed during pushing contractions along with the umbilical cord, creating moments of temporary oxygen deprivation (or hypoxia) in the newborn.

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.

This research ultimately sends a strong warning message to health care providers who continue to perform elective, or non-medically necessary cesareans, and presents yet another reason to seek providers who offer safe alternatives to cesarean birth and practices that lower cesarean risk.

Original Source:"
Source Article:
Vaginal Births May Provide Brain Benefits that C-Sections Do Not