So says this study. It’s intriguing to me, and I’d like to believe it, but I’d like to see a much larger study — somehow a dozen women in each group doesn’t quite “cut it,” with me.
The team found that compared to mothers who delivered by cesarean section, those who delivered vaginally had greater activity in certain brain regions in response to their own baby’s cry as measured by MRI. These brain areas included cortical regions that regulate emotions and empathy, as well as deeper brain structures that contribute to motivation, and habitual thoughts and behaviors. The responses to their own baby’s cry in some of these regions varied according to mood and anxiety.
I can see a few biases or differences which may affect this study, that a couple dozen women wouldn’t be sufficient. I’d like to see, not only a larger study, but one which looks at whether the women wanted a vaginal birth or wanted a C-section; how much labor they had (since they’re looking at the hormone levels as a factor in the level of bonding); and, if they have any other children, whether the level of bonding was different with them, based on how they were born.
What I don’t want, is for this to descend to a C-section vs. vaginal birth “war”, in which some women get high-and-mighty about being better mothers because they’ve had a vaginal birth, or in which women who give birth by C-section feel forced to defend their decision. This is one very small study, and while I hope that it is true, it shouldn’t be used to make one set of women feel bad — especially when they may not have had a choice in their surgery, or even if they did. What it should be used for, is to promote the idea of vaginal birth being normal and laudable, and to give an additional reason for lowering the outrageous C-section rate we currently have in this country. There are so many reasons to have a vaginal birth, and if this study is found to be accurate, then there is another reason to add to the list.
I hope doctors are listening to all the reasons for a vaginal birth, and use it to promote it, rather than (as some do) pushing women into unnecessary C-sections. There are some doctors (I think the current or a recent president of ACOG is such) who think that all women should have C-sections. If they find out that vaginal birth has benefits (as many midwives and natural-birth advocates already believe), then perhaps they will change their tune.