There’s no denying that the process of giving birth is an unforgettable experience for those involved but now it seems the labor of love could also be important for programming an infants development. Researchers from the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) drop some knowledge about the mechanosensitive nature of DNA methylation and show that birth via Caesarean Section (CS) skips the profiles established in blood (hematopoietic) stem cells during labor.
Here’s the scoop:
- Blood stem cells (CD34+) from infants delivered by CS are more globally methylated (+2%) than their ‘vaginal peers’.
- A locus-specific analysis identified 343 differentially methylated regions (DMRs) showing a difference of 10% or more.
- The majority of these DMRs in infants (76%) are hypermethylated after vaginal delivery.
- Interestingly, in these infants, the degree of DNA methylation in 3 loci correlates to the duration of labor.
- DMRs modulate immune system function and metabolism and almost seem to parallel a computer boot up sequence.
Author Mikael Norman shares that “During a vaginal delivery, the fetus is exposed to an increased level of stress, which in a positive way will prepare the unborn baby for life outside the uterus. This activation of the fetus’ defense systems doesn’t occur when a cesarean section is performed before labor begins, which in turn could be a possible cause for the noticed differences between the groups.” So, when it comes down to it, this report suggests that vaginal birth helps give babies an epigenetically programmed ‘jump start’ upon entry into the real world that a CS bypasses, which can lead to some health burdens later in life.
Learn all about the epigenetics of infant delivery in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, July 2014