Brainy babies

Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

Many doctors have been quite concerned about the increasing number of caesarean babies being born in hospitals. And many suspect that a large number of them are done merely for the convenience of the obstetricians. Now, a new finding by Canadian researchers Patricia Bosk and El-Khodor of McGill University in Montreal adds further weight to the argument that, as far as possible, it is better to allow a mother to give birth naturally. The researchers found that caesarean babies are more prone to brain disorders like schizophrenia. They gave anaesthesia to pregnant rats and delivered their young by caesarean section. The operations were uncomplicated and the rat pups appeared normal at birth. But they grew into adults with marked differences compared with controls born naturally. This was confirmed by the examination of dopamine system. When drugs to activate the dopamine system was given, rats born through caesarean section showed that they are more vulnerable to schizophrenia. While it is not known clearly how natural birth is related to brain function, Bosk says it has to do with hormones. The natural birth results in hormonal surges which help the baby's brain develop normally.

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