"We found that the incidence of learning disabilities was equal between children who were delivered vaginally and those who were delivered via C-section but with general anesthesia," says Juraj Sprung, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who led the study.
"It's reassuring that the anesthetics required for Cesarean delivery do not appear to cause long-term brain problems," Sprung added.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of 5,320 children born between 1976 and 1982 to mothers living in Olmsted County.
They compared birth records with scholastic achievement and IQ tests administered to the children later in life as part of their schooling.
Not only did the researchers find that the use of anesthesia during delivery was not harmful to the baby, they found that babies delivered by Cesarean using an epidural anesthetic had a substantially reduced risk for learning disabilities later in life.
"The risk was reduced by about 40 percent compared to children delivered vaginally and those delivered via Cesarean section but with general anesthesia," Sprung said.
These findings are reported in the current issue of the journal Anesthesiology.