When Ayaan was born by c-section, I was disappointed and upset to say the least. Having had a relatively smooth pregnancy, a reasonably broad body structure and the baby in the right position, there was not even a remote thought of caesareans in my mind. I practised all my breathing techniques and religiously did the duck walking and squats recommended by the pre-natal class. But it was not to be. (You can find the detailed birth story here). My doctor, in her best (and in my opinion, flawed) judgement recommended and actively pushed for induction of labour, which didn’t take and then resulted in a c-section.
Now, in addition to being heartbroken at being denied the badge of honour of delivering a child the natural, God-given way, I also had to have myself cut open (with all the risks that any surgery entails) and suffer through the post-operative recovery along with the regular post-natal stuff. Even if you add to this the fact that caesareans are substantially more expensive and that they come with a higher likelihood of breastfeeding difficulties and postpartum depression, we are still talking relatively short-term effects, largely on the mother. Which is why I find this particular news story more than a little disturbing. Here's an excerpt:
Caesarean delivery can alter DNA
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.”
Ever since I got this in a mail last week, I have been brooding over the What Ifs. What if I had picked a different doctor to start with? What if I had stood firm when my doctor insisted on inducing labour? What if I had changed my doctor even at the last moment? What if I had done more squats? What if? What if?? What If???
Not a very productive line of thought, I know. But crying over spilt milk is one of my specialties…
For this pregnancy, I have changed to a doctor who comes highly recommended and I am holding out a glimmer of hope for a VBAC, but unless all the chips are lined up just right, it is pretty likely to end in a caesarean again.
Oh well, I can atleast hope that studies like this will make doctors more cognisant of the long-term downsides of caesareans as a preferred method of delivery and prompt them to be less trigger-happy when recommending them.