Looking for stats on Cesarean birth vs. Vaginal birth and the effects on our society...
February 8, 2009 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Looking for stats on Cesarean birth vs. Vaginal birth and the effects on our society...

Are there studies done on crime rate (or at a prisons) whether or not cesarean birth versus vaginal birth matter? What about suicides?

For example: "Out of 100 suicides, how many of these people were born by cesarean section?" or "At this prison, how many inmates were born by vaginal birth?"

Mainly looking for statistics; crime and suicide related. Country or city does not matter (but North American stats preferred).
posted by querty to Science & Nature (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have your answer, but to odin: I would assume C-section is "treatment" and Vaginal (natural) would be "control" in these circumstances.
posted by tybeet at 3:42 PM on February 8, 2009

Unless you can suggest any sort of rational mechanism for expecting there to be an impact, I would not expect any study like this to exist. If such an analysis were performed, it would be quite difficult to separate factors that could influence both rate of Cesarean delivery and social-psychological outcomes like suicide or incarceration. I'm sort of curious at the basis for this question, I've never heard the slightest suggestion connecting C-sections to adult social-psychological outcomes.
posted by nanojath at 4:06 PM on February 8, 2009

It might be hard to do for inmates because it's not uncommon for inmates either to have been in the foster care system or to have been raised by relatives other than their parents. They may not know what method they were born by. Of course, the older someone is, the less likely they were cesarean section because c-sections have become waaaay more common (many say too common).
posted by fructose at 4:06 PM on February 8, 2009

It looks as though people are starting to pay attention to the differences that can occur between babies born in different ways. I don't know the direct answer to your question, but was surprised that people do feel that there is a correlation between some developmental problems and what is called "late preterm birth" (birth between the 34th and 36th week of pregnancy). The March of Dimes posits that the increase in incidence of cesarean births may contribute to an increase in late preterm births. This is all pretty shaky but the journal article should shed more light on this.
Dr. Joann Petrini of the March of Dimes and colleagues studied the neurological development of more than 140,00 preterm to full-term babies born between 2000 and 2004. And they found that late preterm babies (those born between 34 weeks and 36 weeks) were more than three times as likely as full-term babies to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy and were also at increased risk for developmental delay or mental retardation.

"The negative outcomes of many babies born late preterm can no longer be described as temporary or benign," Petrini said in a news release. She added that elective delivery through Caesarean section or induction should not be performed before 39 weeks unless medically necessary. Petrini also suggested that late preterm babies may benefit from neuron-developmental assessments.

The study is to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
None of this says anything about crime and/or prison statistics, but I thought it was an interesting claimed correlation.
posted by jessamyn at 4:09 PM on February 8, 2009

You would have to control for the reason for the c-section: for example, if a c-section has to be done for a premature baby, the likely reason that the child has problems is prematurity, not the c-section and prematurity is linked with all manner of mental, emotional and physical problems, some of which can be linked to crime risk.

Also, you'd have to control for class: I can't imagine that there are many poor women who have the choice of a voluntary c-section and if you are the child of a doctor who is "too posh to push" you probably have all manner of other advantages in life so if your outcomes are better than for non-c-section births, it would be way more sensible to attribute that to being born rich.

There's some evidence that being born vaginally is better for the immune system and that being born vaginally makes it easier for the mom to breast-feed-- but again, now you have to look at the variable of breast-feeding v. non.

Though some women obsess about this and feel like a failure if they have to have a c-section after wanting a "natural" birth, the truth is that it probably makes little or no difference, except to those unfortunate in extremely rare cases to die from infections contracted during c-section or unfortunate in less rare cases to die from a vaginal birth when they could have been saved by a c-section.

What possible causal path could there be between c-section and crime risk? There's a possible causal path between vaginal birth and crime risk if you're talking about failing to intervene fast enough in cases of low oxygen to the brain. That could conceivably cause damage that would lead to low intelligence or impulsivity, both of which are linked to crime. However, it's hard to know if low intelligence is actually linked to greater risk of committing crime or greater risk of *getting caught* so even that is complicated.
posted by Maias at 5:48 PM on February 8, 2009

Not sure what the correlation between preterm babies and c-section versus natural is.

All I've ever heard is that there may be some correlation between c-section births and immune system issues, posited to be caused by lack of exposure to the flora and fauna (kidding) in the birth canal.
posted by gjc at 6:38 PM on February 8, 2009

gjc, many (most?) people schedule a c-section or induction during the 38th or 39th week. An elective c-section is always earlier than the baby would have come on its own. Thus the phrase "late preterm." I think I saw something recently (in the past couple months? maybe in the New York Times? I remember a useful chart) that even these last two weeks make a big difference in how many babies have trouble.

To querty: I would not expect any studies relating delivery method to adult (mis)behavior in the medical literature.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:06 PM on February 8, 2009

I am actually spending today working on a big dataset from my hospital that includes mode of delivery and socio-economic class (at least I would be if I wasn't trying to answer your question).

The short answer is no, we don't have good data linking mode of delivery with subsequent adult criminality or psychological problems.

The long answer is that there are huge effects of ethnicity, maternal age, marital status and socio-economic class on obstetric outcomes, both in the US and the EU. If there is an association between caesarean and criminality, it would be linked to these factors rather than the actual act of surgically removing the baby via the abdomen. With the exception of something called transient tachypnoea of the newborn, delivery by caesarean at 38-39 weeks is probably just as safe for the baby as a normal vaginal delivery.

As a starter for your research, several studies have noted that black women in the US are more likely to have caesarean delivery (e.g. http://www.ajph.org/cgi/content/abstract/85/5/625 ), and for that reason alone, I would imagine that US prisons have a disproportionately large number of inmates delivered by caesarean.
posted by roofus at 4:05 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

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