At Mindful Mamma we already know that mums who delivered naturally are responsive to their babies, and that babies born vaginally are known bond quicker and feed better. But this study, which has been widely reported, left us thinking there are perhaps more environmental factors which influence how a mother responds to their baby’s cry and the emotional bond they feel with their baby. We find that women who have prepared well, are able to make informed choices and who feel empowered by their births respond well to their baby whatever their birth and feel that they had a positive birthing experience.
Lack of response to the baby is often linked to post natal depression and guilt that the mother hasn’t been able to give her baby a “perfect birth”. In the study by Dr. James Swain, Child Study Centre, Yale University it isn’t clear how the women were chosen, what sort of birth preparation they had, nor the circumstances under which they had a caesarean. So it really isn’t the full picture.
The study published yesterday has found that mothers who delivered vaginally compared to caesarean section delivery (CSD) were significantly more responsive to the cry of their own baby, identified through MRI brain scans two to four weeks after delivery.
The results of the study published today in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggest that vaginal delivery (VD) mothers are more sensitive to hearing their own baby-cry in the regions of the brain that are believed to regulate emotions, motivation and habitual behaviours.
A caesarean is a surgical procedure, in which delivery occurs via incisions in the abdominal and uterine wall. It 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% of all deliveries in 1965 to a recent high in 2006 of 29.1%. In the UK the figure is slightly lower at around 23% – this varies from hospital to hospital.
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 release of oxytocin from the posterior pituitary, uterine contractions and vagino-cervical stimulation. Oxytocin is a key mediator of maternal behaviour in animals. You produce additional amounts of Oxytocin during the birth and after the birth the rush of love is linked to a rush of Oxytocin.
“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.”
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. So this may have an impact on postnatal depression.
At Mindful Mamma we teach you to trust and have confidence in your birthing body, so the risk of caesarean is significantly reduced if you have prepared well for birth emotionally and practically. HypnoBirthing mums have an average of 9% of caesareans compared with a national average of 23%. Those mums who have delivered by caesarean have demonstrated a positive response to their baby knowing that they had the best birth possible and even the preparation they undertook, kept them connected with their baby who had the psychological and neurological benefit of reduced levels of cortisol in the womb while mum took time to relax during her pregnancy.