Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Baby brain bleeding in vaginal births

Study finds baby brain bleeding in vaginal births Reuters/Yahoo!News 1/30/07 "About a quarter of babies born in vaginal deliveries had a small amount of bleeding in their brains, while none delivered by Caesarean section did...They said the findings suggest brain bleeding in some newborns has been commonplace in vaginal deliveries throughout history, but is being detected now only because of highly sophisticated imaging technology..."There's no evidence that these bleeds are associated with problems in later life in either mental or physical function or ability," said Dr. Honor Wolfe, an obstetrician involved in the study published in the journal Radiology. Pressure on the baby's skull while squeezing through the birth canal probably causes the bleeding, said Dr. John Gilmore, a psychiatry professor involved in the study..."While the vast majority of these are probably normal and go away and don't cause any problems, some of them were bigger and, we don't know, but may cause problems down the line as well," Gilmore said. Small bleeds usually heal harmlessly, but larger ones could lead later in life to learning or motor development problems or seizures...The researchers said the bleeding was unrelated to the baby's size or head circumference, the length of labor or the use of forceps or vacuum during delivery...Bones in a newborn's skull are not yet fused, allowing them to shift and overlap as the baby exits the birth canal -- a process that can compress the brain or tear blood vessels, causing bleeding...Most were small amounts of bleeding between the brain and the membrane that covers it inside the skull, called subdural hematomas"

A previous study done in Britain had found only 10% of babies had subdural hematomas. It is thought that this was an undercount due to lower resolution brain scans.

Although in Dr. Sarah Brewer's book Super Baby she mentions that Cesarean babies end up being adults with a slight IQ boost over adults that were born vaginally, I can't find evidence of this with a quick PubMed search. What's clear is there is very little research on intelligence and birth procedures. I find it hard to believe that subdural hematoma would have no effect on the development of the brain. Obviously the degree and type of hematoma must be a factor. But how much of a factor - they mention learning and motor disorders and increased chance of seizures, but is that all?

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