Way of Birth Affects Motherly Behaviour

Photo: Tiny baby fingers in big mother's hand

The bond between baby and
mother seems to be stronger
after a natural birth; © SXC

The results of the study suggest that vaginal delivery (VD) mothers are more sensitive to own baby-cry in the regions of the brain that are believed to regulate emotions, motivation and habitual behaviours. This was identified through MRI brain scans two to four weeks after delivery.

CSD is considered necessary under some conditions to protect the health or survival of infant or mother, but it is controversially linked with postpartum depression. In the US the occurrence of CSD has increased steeply from 4.5 percent of all deliveries in 1965 to a recent high in 2006 of 29.1 percent, according to the scientists.

The critical capacity of adults to develop the thoughts and behaviours needed for parents to care successfully for their newborn infants is supported by specific brain circuits and a range of hormones. The experience of childbirth by VD compared with CSD uniquely involves the pulsatile release of oxytocin from the posterior pituitary, uterine contractions and vagino-cervical stimulation. Oxytocin is a key mediator of maternal behaviour in animals.

“We wondered which brain areas would be less active in parents who delivered by Caesarean section, given that this mode of delivery has been associated with decreased maternal behaviours in animal models, and a trend for increased postpartum depression in humans,” said lead author James Swain. “Our results support the theory that variations in delivery conditions such as with Caesarean section, which alters the neurohormonal experiences of childbirth, might decrease the responsiveness of the human maternal brain in the early postpartum.”

The researchers also looked into the brain areas affected by delivery conditions and found relationships between brain activity and measures of mood suggesting that some of the same brain regions may help regulate postpartum mood.

MEDICA.de; Source: Wiley-Blackwell