A team of researchers from the University of Malaga (UMA) has pioneered how the type of birth can influence the subsequent psychological development and intelligence of twins, showing that caesarean section has an independent risk effect on multiple births. Its authors, who defend the benefits of vaginal delivery, promote the use of C-section only if there are problems.
“Twins are a very vulnerable population, since they are frequently born premature and have complications in pregnancy and childbirth,” says Ernesto González Mesa, a professor of Gynecology at the UMA.
“We have found that caesarean section becomes a risk factor for development. Therefore, gynaecologists are convinced of the benefits of vaginal delivery, and we defend the use of this surgical intervention only as a resource when there are problems,” says González-Mesa.
For the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, 160 twin children born in 2005 at the Maternal and Child Hospital of Malaga were analyzed. In this period, there were 7,000 births, almost 300 multiples. Of the sample, 55% were vaginal deliveries and 45%, caesarean sections.
Lower cognitive development in caesarean section
In a first phase of the work, the children who participated were tested for intelligence, neuropsychological and psychopedagogical development, whose results, already in a second stage, were contrasted with information on perinatal and obstetric variables such as the type of delivery, their problems, mother’s age or birth weight, among others.
“By comparing all the data, we detected that those who presented a lower intellectual level and cognitive development came from cesarean births,” explains María José González Valenzuela, principal investigator of the article and professor in the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology.
With this work, the researchers hope their study helps early detection of this kind of developmental problems, as well as the development intervention with activities at schools and primary care centers. In this sense, the counselor Olga Cazorla Granados, one of the authors of the study, adds that in educational settings there is a growing tendency to look for neurological factors to explain difficulties in psychological development.
Other future lines for further progress in this study are addressing the biggest problems in reading, writing and the calculation that twins usually present, and continuing to identify benefits of vaginal delivery against caesarean section, such as the neurological effects that the intestinal flora of children —different in each type of birth— can carry.