PUBLISHED:16:00 EST, 8 August 2012| UPDATED:16:00 EST, 8 August 2012
Babies born naturally may have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section, new research claims.
According to scientists, when women give birth naturally there are higher levels of a special protein in babies’ brains that helps boost intelligence levels as they develop.
Scientists at Yale University in the US say the increased levels of the protein, called UCP2, in babies born naturally could help foster their short and long term memories – key components of the human IQ – as they grow up.
They made the discovery after studying the hippocampal region in the brains of mice born naturally and by caesarean.
Mice born by C-section were found to have lower levels of UCP2 and, as a result, suffered ‘impaired adult behaviours’.
UCP2 has already been credited with helping to improve the chances of newborns breastfeeding.
The findings come at a time when a deal of controversy surrounds C-sections.
Critics have said that C-sections can increase the risk of internal bleeding and can lead to problems to do with fertility in the future.
They think that celebrity mothers, such as Victoria Beckham and Zoe Ball, are to blame for more women opting for them.
Around one quarter of babies in NHS hospitals are delivered by caesarean, although the figure is thought to be as high as 60 per cent in private clinics.
Celebrity mothers such as Victoria Beckham (right) and Zoe Ball (left) have been blamed for more women asking for caesareans
Study author Dr Tamas Horvath, whose findings are published in journal PLoS ONE said: ‘These results reveal a potentially critical role of UCP2 in the proper development of brain circuits and related behaviours.
‘The increasing prevalence of C-sections driven by convenience rather than medical necessity may have a previously unsuspected lasting effect on brain development and function in humans as well.’
She added: ‘We found that natural birth triggered UCP2 expression in the neurons located in the hippocampal region of the brain.
‘This was diminished in the brains of mice born via C-section. Knocking out the UCP2 gene or chemically inhibiting UCP2 function interfered with the differentiation of hippocampal neurons and circuits, and impaired adult behaviours related to hippocampal functions.’