Smaller brain volumes after birth by Cesarean Section

Scientific papers  |  24 March 2021

Being born is not easy. Mammals need to pass through the birth canal before coming out into this world, and to do so the head (and whole body) undergoes a harsh squeezing. Thankfully, the newborn prepares for this stressful event that transitions life from in-utero to ex-utero. But these events (some, or all of them) are bypassed when birthing happens by cesarean section delivery. In our recent work published in Cerebral Cortex, we investigated the early effect of cesarean section delivery on the brain. We found that on the day of birth mice born by cesarean section had smaller brains than mice born vaginally at term, independently of when they were born (at term, or preterm – 1 day before term). We also found that mice born preterm by cesarean section had different levels of cell-death and cell-activity in two different brain areas. Our results shed light on how changes in the way and/or time of being born affect early life brain developmental processes.

Left: 3D reconstruction of whole brain (grey), hippocampus (green), striatum (blue) and lateral ventricles (yellow). Right: Images of local size changes in the whole brain, hippocampus and striatum compared to the vaginal term group which was normalized to 100%. Red colors show greater normalized volumes and yellow-blue colors are assigned to smaller normalized volumes compared to the vaginal term group (orange).
Modified from Chiesa et al., Cerebral Cortex, 2021
References : 
Chiesa M. et al. "Brain volumes in mice are smaller at birth after term or preterm cesarean section delivery. 2021. Cerebral Cortex in press".