"We found a significant difference in activity in certain cortical and subcortical areas of the brain in this group of mothers who delivered vaginally compared with those who delivered by cesarean section. Broadly speaking, the cortical brain regions are believed to be important for regulating emotions and empathy," principal investigator James Swain, MD, PhD, FRCPS, told Medscape Psychiatry.
....While the mechanism is not entirely clear, researchers believe vaginal stimulation caused by vaginal delivery results in the release of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that is a key mediator of maternal behavior in animals.
Cesarean section, said Dr. Swain, may alter the neurohormonal experience of childbirth and therefore may decrease the responsiveness of the human maternal brain in the early postpartum.
The investigators are currently looking at 3- to 4-month postpartum data to determine whether these effects of vaginal delivery on the maternal brain endure. Although the final analyses are not complete, Dr. Swain said preliminary analysis in this healthy group indicates the contrast between the 2 groups may not persist, suggesting that mothers who deliver via cesarean section may eventually "catch up" to those who deliver vaginally.
-- Medscape Medical News
01 October 2008
Study finds vaginal birth makes for more responsive mothers initially
The study, as seen here and here, reminds us why we must seek to avoid unnecessary cesareans and promote a less technocratic model of birth. Of course this is not all new information, we have seen related ideas in the works of Sarah J. Buckley, Michel Odent & others. It means we need to find ways to get moms and babies reunited as soon as possible after necessary cesareans (all 10-15% of them) and give additional attention with lactation support and other care to try to guard against the potential fallout from a cesarean (or for that matter, plain ol' intervention-filled birth of any kind).