PROBLEM: To investigate whether the mode of delivery or the drugs given to the mother during labor may affect the newborns' immune system.
METHOD OF STUDY: Three groups of term newborns were included: A, spontaneously delivered with i.v. analgesia (n = 37); B, spontaneously delivered with epidural analgesia (n = 26); and C, delivered by cesarean section under general anesthesia (n = 29). Natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity, mitogenic response, and the capacity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to produce interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-2, IL-3, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α were examined.
RESULTS: NK cell cytotoxicity increased significantly in all three groups of newborns on the second day of life. Decreased IL-2 production was observed in newborns delivered by cesarean section. Spontaneous IL-1β secretion was higher in newborns to mothers treated with epidural analgesia. Spontaneous IL-6 secretion was elevated in infants to mothers undergoing general anesthesia and surgery or epidural analgesia. TNF-α production was increased in newborns delivered by cesarean section.
CONCLUSION: The immune response of the newborn is affected by the mode of delivery and/or drugs given to the mother during labor.