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Caesarean delivery can alter DNA: study

Caesarean delivery can alter DNA: study

Published: 29 Jun 2009 08:07 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Jun 2009 08:07 GMT+02:00

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet believe they have discovered the DNA mutations that explain why children delivered by planned Caesarean are at a higher risk for immunological diseases such as asthma, cancer and diabetes.

The genetic makeup of white blood cells looks different in children delivered via Caesarean compared to that of children born normally, reports Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (SvD).

An explanation for the different DNA sequences might be that those delivered via Caesarean experience greater stress than babies delivered naturally.

While stress builds up gradually during normal birth, the nervous systems of babies delivered via Caesarean are exposed to sudden stress. At the same time, some DNA genes are turned off while others are switched on.

Professor and paediatrician Mikael Norman, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained that stress occurring during vaginal birth is positive and goal-oriented:

“During a Caesarean, the baby is totally unprepared. The stress comes all at once. There are animal experiments that show that negative stress can programme offspring, something that later can play a role in terms of risk of illness.”

The study at Karolinska focused on the white blood cells in the umbilical cords of Caesarean babies and found mutations in their genetic makeup. The researchers noted differences in DNA sequencing of babies delivered via Caesarean and those delivered normally during the first two days after birth.

“We believe it's a pioneering discovery that Caesarean birth can effect genetic makeup up. Previously, the discussions were about the short-term risk for the mother and child,” Norman told SvD.

“This is of an entirely different magnitude and is part of a new way of looking at the side effects of Caesarean birth.”

The Karolinska study is, on one hand, a result of a debate about the health effects of Caesarean delivery and, on the other, a result of the fact that Caesarean as a delivery method has increased from around 5 percent of births in 1973 to 17.5 percent in 2007.

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:11 June 29, 2009 by Jadarra
This article reads as if they tested only voluntary Caesarean deliveries and the stress was caused from the immediate sensation of birth involved with that.

When I gave birth to my daughter, she experienced the normal 'goal-oriented' stress of trying to come out . . . until her heartbeat stopped and they had to perform an emergency Caesarean delivery. I think whatever caused her heartbeat to stop was a bit more stressful that the shock of suddenly coming into the world.

I wonder if the stress implications they discovered couldln't be related to those types of difficulties in birth, as opposed to the sudden exposure to the outside world.
13:50 June 29, 2009 by karex
This test also reads as if they tested only two groups: natural childbirth vs. C-section.

When I was pregnant, the Dr. told me that EVERYTHING the mother ingests affects the baby. I quit smoking, drinking alcohol and even taking aspirin for headaches. The birth was also anesthetic free.

I woulbe be interested in seeing results of the comparison between three groups: C-section, natural childbirth with anesthetics and natural childbirth without anestethics.

I suspect that the two groups where anesthetics is applied would show a lot more similar results. I question the conclusion of the study. I would be more inclined to believe that the medication was the cause of the effect, and not the stress.

Face it, can you think of greater stress than having to be pushed through a claustrophobic and suffocating passage?
22:26 June 29, 2009 by spy
Yes I can think of greater stress than having to be pushed through a claustrophobic and suffocating passage.

- Being shouted at by your wife whilst waiting for it all happen.
05:57 July 1, 2009 by majorx
Absurd.....unless the doctor could deliver 2 babies with proven identical genes, one by C-section and one by natural birth ....he cant sure the method of delivery was properly isolated in the research as the only possible cause.

He is generating unnecessary fear with a mere observational study and making unfounded far reaching conclusions.
20:04 July 1, 2009 by DayCaptain
In the last 3 generations of my immediate family 6 have asthma and two do not out of 8 born naturally and the only two born by c-section have asthma. If the parent has asthma it is likely to be passed to the offspring. The cancers on my mother's side of the family are all in those born naturally. The only diabetes is type 2 from being overweight.

This is just another stupid, useless study written by somebody looking to publish something, anything, just to get published.
12:22 July 3, 2009 by ameribrit
Ahh, glad to see the N=1 contingent are explaining how the research is wrong again.
14:35 July 6, 2009 by TheObjectiveObserver
Jadarra, the article says the Caesarean's are planned - not emergencies. Since they are not an emergency, there isn't that kind of stress involved.

Karex, Human bodies have been born that way for eons - unlike caesarean which is a relatively new phenomenon for our biology to come to terms with. Try learning about the amazing process of birth and you will see how all the different hormones that are released through labour are very important to the baby. Something they miss out on during a planned caesarean.

Marjorx, If they conducted this study over many babies, there shouldn't be a significant difference between a natural born baby to a planned caesarean baby. And yet there was. The reason why that is the case may not be their explanation, but it really is worthy of further attention.
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