September 4, 2008

Publication: Irish Daily STAR Date: Thursday, September 4, 2008 Page: 28



Boffins find depression link to op

childbirth may weaken the attachment of a mother to her baby, a study has shown. Scientists found women were more emotionally responsive to the cries of their babies if they gave birth naturally. Those who had Caesarean deliveries were significantly less sensitive to the sound of their own babies crying. Parts of their brains that regulate emotions were not as strongly activated as they were in natural birth mothers. Researchers believe the difference may be explained by a "bonding" hormone released in the brain during labour. Oxytocin, the "love hormone", creates feelings of attachment in humans and animals. It is also produced in women during breast feeding and sex.

Between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of all births in Britain are now delivered by Caesarean section and controversially, the procedure has been linked with post-natal depression. Caesarean deliveries may be advised for health reasons, but increasingly they are being seen as a "lifestyle choice". The "too posh to push" tag has been applied to women who pay for private Caesareans.

Women who delay motherhood are more likely to have the operation because child birth risks increase with age. The new research by British and US scientists involved 12 American mothers having their first baby. Six had natural vaginal deliveries and six had Caesareans. Two to four weeks after the births, the women underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of their brains while listening to the recorded cries of their babies. The scans revealed a range of brain regions that were more highly activated in natural birth women while hearing the sound of their babies crying. These were parts of the brain that dealt with emotions, empathy, motivation and habit. The findings were published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Research leader Dr James Swain said the study could help the early detection of families at risk of post-natal depression.