I wanted to share the below article as food for thought. When I read the line, "maybe C-section moms may make up for it ( it being the release of oxytocin ) later with normal cuddling and hugging and nursing ," I thought, wow, that is exactly how I felt about my first birth. I instinctively sensed that something had been interrupted during Khady's birth and always felt very grateful that I turned immediately towards developing a strong breastfeeding relationship and carrying Khady in a sling. I remember nursing Khady while changing trains on the metro and while volunteering as an interpreter at the Smithsonian Folk-life Festival. We went everywhere together, she snuggled, often nursing, in my maya wrap, while my cesarean incision finished healing and later on my back in the mei tai my friend sewed from fabric I chose.
Like Michel Odent, I think we need to think carefully about the effect of rising cesareans on humanity. What is the cumulative effect of cesarean birth followed by placing newborns in strollers and separate bedrooms coupled with short maternity leave? Shouldn't doctors explain the role of oxytocin during the birth process and the impact of drugs and procedures on the release of birthing hormones? What if doctors truly encouraged breastfeeding and suggested that moms practice baby-wearing and co-sleeping to facilitate bonding when cesarean birth occurs? Shouldn't doctors suggest craniosacral therapy to help babies heal from difficult births? What happens when the bond is not repaired?
But experts caution that women who have C-sections should not feel like failures as mothers because they did not deliver vaginally. In recent years, the rate of C-section delivery in the U.S. has increased from about 4.5% of all deliveries in 1965 to 29.1% in 2006, according to information cited in the study.
The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
"Just because moms who deliver vaginally respond better to their infant's cries does not mean they are better parents," says researcher James E. Swain, MD, PhD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "Other factors play a role, including the whole lifetime experience of the mother, the presence of a supportive father, as well as other socioeconomic and cultural factors."
The researchers used brain scans called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on 12 new moms two to four weeks following delivery to determine if the type of delivery affected how responsive they were to their newborn's cries.
The Role of Oxytocin The six women who delivered vaginally showed more activity in certain areas of the brain linked to emotions and parenting behaviors compared to the six moms who had elective C-sections. The researchers suggest that vaginal birth stimulates the more rapid release of the "love hormone" oxytocin.
Oxytocin is released during active labor and delivery. It's been shown to be a factor in mother-child bonding.
Some research has linked C-section delivery with higher rates of postpartum depression, and this may be due to the discrepancies in oxytocin release. None of the women in the new study developed postpartum depression. The initial study was three weeks in duration, but unpublished, follow-up data spanning three to four months showed that the differences between the moms on MRI is less marked.
"Don't panic or think you did the wrong thing by having a C-section because it may be that these differences are just in the initial phases and it may take the oxytocin awhile to build up after a C-section delivery. Or maybe C-section moms may make up for it later with normal cuddling and hugging and nursing," Swain says. Breastfeeding is known to stimulate the release of oxytocin.
Going forward, the new findings may help doctors develop a screening test for risk of postpartum depression. "We can monitor the mother and father to see if certain brain areas are not as responsive to baby stimuli and then they can be a little more closely monitored and offered more support due to increased risk of depression," Swain says.
Second Opinion Calling the new study "a fascinating way of looking at the correlation between behavior and brain function," Manju Monga, MD, professor and division director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston, cautions that there are no definitive studies linking C-section delivery to higher rates of postpartum depression.
"The biggest stimulator of oxytocin release is breastfeeding," she says, which is unaffected by mode of delivery. "Maternal infant bonding has been shown to be associated with how long a mother is separated from their infant from birth and whether they initiate nursing right away. So rather than worry about mode of delivery, tell your physician that you want to room-in with the baby. And if you are planning to nurse, put baby to your breast in the recovery room," Monga suggests.
"These are very interesting preliminary results," says Donnica Moore, MD, a women's health expert based in Far Hills, N.J. "This study is not going to influence a doctor's recommendation for a C-section vs. a vaginal delivery. And there is big leap between cause and effect."
"The new findings may contribute to the feelings of women who have had C-section that they may have failed by not having a natural, vaginal delivery," she says. "The goal of labor and delivery is a healthy mother and a healthy baby."