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C-Section May Interfere with Development of Maternal Behavior

In humans! James Swain of Yale scanned the brains of new mothers two to four weeks after delivery. He found their brains were less responsive to their babies' crying. From the article in News Medical.

"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 Dr. James Swain, Child Study Centre, Yale University. "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."

Many people think that the pulses of oxytocin released by the brain to start contractions during natural childbirth also prime the brain's emotional centers to love and care for the baby. By contrast, the steady intravenous drip of pitocin used to jumpstart labor in the majority of U.S. hospital births may not allow for the emotional circuits to respond -- especially since the contractions caused by pitocin can be much more painful than natural ones.

Because oxytocin can act as a mood elevator and is synergistic with serotonin, it's also possible that c-section might increase a mother's risk of postpartum depression.

A possible attachment gap created by c-section has also been shown in survey-type studies. Swain's work shows that it happens at the level of brain activity, possibly preventing important and permanent changes in the brain.

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