Despite efforts to reduce intervention rates during labour, vaginal births without medical intervention are becoming increasingly rare in Australia and overseas: nearly one in three women in Australian now give birth by caesarean; more than half are induced or have the process sped up with drugs; and 50% are given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.
Much of the research on the effects of intervention during birth has focused on short-term outcomes of mother and baby. But what if were unknowingly reshaping society through the way our children were born?
Scientists are increasingly realising that the genetic legacy we pass on to our offspring is not hardwired. Rather, genes and susceptibility to disease can be activated or deactivated by lifestyle factors and experiences such as diet, stress, exposure to toxins – and childbirth. This relatively new field of study is called epigenetics, which literally means above genetics.
Researchers have shown epigenetic changes can occur during pregnancy and in the first few months after the birth. But to date, epigenetic influences during the actual labour and birth have rarely been studied. This is probably because researchers thought the labour and birth period was too short to lead to epigenetic changes. More here Can caesarean sections increase susceptibility to disease?