Thursday, November 11, 2010

So now babies born via C Section are less aggressive? How to spot a theory looking for a study.

Here we go again. C-section. Does she? Doesn't she? It's dangerous. It's necessary. A c section is surgery and has risks associated with it.  But here's a new study that's noteworthy because it "suggests" that children born by c section are less aggressive. 
Without further ado, here is the headline,

"Childhood aggression linked to stressful birth

Wed, Nov 3, 2010 (Reuters) — Babies who undergo a difficult birth and are delivered using forceps are more likely to develop problems such as aggression during childhood compared with those born by Caesarean section, according to a study in China."

Later in the article Reuters tells us that researchers believe that elevated levels of cortisol are somehow related to aggression in children. To be clear, we are hearing a lot about cortisol these days, it's being blamed for people's inability to lose weight, inflammatory disorders and strange hives.  The basic understanding is that cortisol is a hormone released by stress.  

So in this article, the idea is that "cortisol, a hormone the body produces during a stressful and difficult birth." So, by "stressing the baby with forceps or vacuum extraction, you're dooming your child to aggression and "psychopathology".  


Cortisol comes from stress. Excessive stress, elevates cortisol levels. Kids who have social problems between 4 and 6 have elevated levels of cortisol.  More of these kids were delivered with interventions; ergo interventions at delivery cause social problems by elevating cortisol SOOO MUCH that 4 years later, the kids can't recover.  Feels like a stretch. No chance these kids have other sources of stress? Did anyone check for other things that they might have in common? IS it possible that they already have social problems and that is driving stress and heightened levels of cortisol? (the tail wagging the dog, so to speak). Of course it is. BUT THAT DOESN"T SELL ADVERTISING!

So kids who have high cortisol levels are more likely to be antisocial between 4 and 6. 

Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not.

According to, the Mayo Clinic staff,
"When you encounter perceived threats — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol."

Could these children live in noisier households? Could these children have stressful home or school situations? Do we really want mothers to believe that if their baby is delivered via forceps or vacuum extraction, she will cause mental problems later in life? As if she doesn't have enough to worry about getting ready to give birth.
Interventions at birth happen because of emergencies; not because they are planned. So here goes Reuters trying to scare the heck out of mothers-to-be and is ALL OVER IT! 

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