Natural birth kickstarts key brain protein production

Natural birth may boost the production of a protein linked to higher levels of IQ. Image: Shutterstock

Improve your baby’s IQ, naturally.

Births by caesarian sections have been on the rise in Australia. In 2006, more than 30 per cent of women who gave birth underwent the procedure, a 10 per cent increase in less than ten years, according to ten year the Australian Health Organisation. Apart from the risks associated with the surgery, including extended recovery time, researchers suggest that C-section babies are born with lower levels of an important protein.

Yale School of Medicine researchers studied the hippocampal region in the brains of mice born naturally and by caesarian. They found that mice born by surgery had much lower levels of a protein called mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2), which is believed to assist in short-term and long-term memory, key components of the human IQ.

“Long lasting effects of impaired UCP2 activity during development may in fact affect complex adult behaviors,” wrote the researchers in a paper published recently in PLoS ONE.

When the researchers, led by Tamas Horvath, turned off the UCP2 gene or inhibited its function in adult mice, the animals performed poorly in certain tasks; for example, when the rodents had to explore a maze, they tended to hug the walls and move more slowly than mice with normal UCP2 levels.

Although the researchers have not proven their findings on humans, they say it may give women and doctors should reconsider when there is no medical need to intervene in a natural birth.

“The increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well,” Horvath said in a press release.

“I’m not saying, one is better or worse,” he continues. “We don’t conclude anything clinical, but suggest that perhaps natural birth has a role of its own in inducing processes in the brain that are important for development and later function.”

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