The Birth Process and Physiological Development
While a c-section can sometimes be the best option for both the mother and the baby, parents often choose this option because they believe that it is more convenient and less painful. Many even believe that it is the healthiest option for their baby. However, this is not the case.
C-sections increase the risk of physical and emotional trauma to both the mother and the baby, and can even lead to serious health issues. So while it can definitely be necessary in emergency situations, it is important to be aware of any issues to keep an eye out for.
Most babies born by elective c-section are taken out two to four weeks early to avoid labor. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine the exact date of conception, which can lead to the baby being born before it is ready. Between weeks 35-40, the brain will grow by a third, so the last few weeks of development inside the womb are vital.
C-sections can also lead to pulmonary hypertension (4x the average). During labor, the blood vessels relax due to the autonomic nervous system activated. If this doesn’t happen, then it can lead to the blood pressure being too high and the oxygen levels being too low, which can result in brain damage and organ damage. This is a large part of the reason that babies born via c-section are three times more likely to pass away during their first month of life.
Not only that, but babies born this early still have fluid in their lungs which can interrupt the baby reflexively learning to breathe for itself. In this case, they may require oxygen support or they may be given antibiotics. Antibiotics are great for bacterial infections, but they also target the good bacteria that babies don’t have much of yet, especially if they were not exposed to it during birth. Long term health after a c-section comes down to the development of the microbiome in the baby, since they will have a much higher bacterial load.
There are many reasons why labor is the better option than an elective c-section. So many reflexes are developed during active labor, and are important for developing a baby’s neurology. A c-section can interrupt the development of those base instincts, leading to further interruption in development later on in the child’s life.
Active labor allows the baby to finish developing and gives it what it needs to prepare for the outside world. It is what solidifies the development of the autonomic nervous system as well as the Moro reflex, which helps regulate the levels of oxygen in the body.
At around 7.5 months, the baby will begin to flip around. Wolff’s law states that bone will grow where stress is, so it helps the baby develop its cranial plates and also helps develop the pelvic bones to create more stability.
During labor, the sympathetic nervous system acts in opposition to how it usually does – by slowing everything down instead of revving it up – to help that baby through the transition of birth. Then, the baby’s head will be squeezed from about 15 cm to 10 cm. This is why babies have that soft spot on their head, because their cranial bones are not yet finished developing to allow for birth. This physiological change is what signals to the baby that it is now entering the outside world. Then, the baby will reflexively move its arm then leg out in what is known as the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex. As the baby continues on its journey, pressure will be put on the spine, stimulating the spinal galant response of hip movement.
Once birth is over, the baby should be placed laying on its right side on its mothers chest, not only for that much needed first contact, but also to close the foramen ovale. This is a hole that exists in the baby’s heart since they have not started oxygenating their own system yet. Laying them on their right side prepares them to oxygenate their own blood and also stimulates their liver, so the baby’s whole body is involved in the transition of life.
Labor allows for all of these crucial first moments in a baby’s life that cannot happen in the case of a c-section. However, the brain is malleable (especially a baby’s brain) so there are things that we can do to address issues caused by c-section births and help your baby get back on track. Watching out for signs of developmental delay can help us prevent potential problems from turning into much greater issues in the future.
Traditional medicine may tell you that developmental milestones don’t really matter, that it doesn’t have any effect on development when your baby starts crawling or talking, etc. But it does. Issues later in life (like adhd, ocd, etc) can be traced back to these missed or delayed milestones.
One of the ways to track the earliest interruptions in a baby’s development is with their APGAR score, done by healthcare professionals at 1 minute and 5 minutes after birth. This tells us how well they handled birth and how well they are handling the outside world so far. A 10 is the ideal score, while a lower score can signal potential problems.
Mild issues can lead to much bigger ones in a baby’s future. But that can be avoided if we catch it early on in the child’s development, especially in the case of c-sections (elective or not), where there is an increased risk. So if you had a c-section for whatever reason and you’d like to make sure your baby is on the right track, come in for a consultation and let us help you make a plan.
And if you are getting ready to have children, it’s a good idea to ensure that your health is in order first, as we know that health issues in either parent can lead to health issues in their baby. If you’d like some guidance, call now at (678) 501-5172
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