Over 25% of births are c-section and that number continues to rise each year.
In a c-section birth, baby is not exposed to mama’s vaginal flora. Baby’s that are born c-section have a flora that reflects the environment of which the baby is born (aka hospital) and will resemble more of the mother’s skin micro biome. Baby’s born vaginally have the mother’s bacteria which overrides the hospital environment - allowing them to receive the beneficial bacteria to set up shop in their gut.
A Swansea medical school trial with over 400 babies, discovered that babies delivered by c-section, bottle-fed and given no probiotics had 99% staph. Aurues in their gut and extremely low lactobacillus compared to vaginal delivered babies (the bacteria we want the most of). These bacterias drive immune system development and imprint as colonizing bacteria that are still found in the gut decades later in life. Essentially these bacterias never leave the body.
Why is this important for expectant mamas to understand? Baby’s microbiome from birth and early life sets the stage for their immune system and health for the rest of its life. An allergy or sensitivity that shows up at 6 years of age or even 20 years of age is usually traced back to those first few months of life even if it does not show or become evident until years later. It is also crucial that mama has a good microbiome prior to and throughout pregnancy because she is the one passing on the bacterias. We need to make sure we are making as many good choices that we can, to promote a healthy gut in the first few months of life to create a strong gut flora and base of our immune system.
Increase of c-sections, little to no breastfeeding, and overuse of antibiotics during the first few months and years of life, are just a few reasons why we are seeing a huge increase in poor immunity, ear infections, eczema, allergies, and more. As someone who cared for babies and children for about 5 years, I could make a pretty well educated guess of which kids were c-section vs vaginal birth, breastfed, and had repetitive antibiotic use, high sugar/processed diets, based on their immunity and overall health.
Birth is something we don’t always have control over - we can create a plan but it doesn’t always go according which is okay. Don’t panic. It just means we need to be prepped with the tools in case c-section becomes the only option. And if you are reading this and panicking about what you did or did not do with your pregnancy and child, do not freak out. When we know better, we can do better, and there are plenty of things we can do to improve gut flora and our immunity (it will just take more effort and work as opposed to starting from birth).
A super easy, free way to improve baby’s microbiome if you do have a c-section? Take a vaginal swab prior to birth and store it in a sterile container. After baby is delivered via c-section wipe it over babies mouth, eyes and ears, face and then the rest of the body.
Breastfeed! Breast milk is a wonderful source of bacteria and we are now aware that it is also beneficial for seeding an infant’s gut. We are discovering that bacteria from the gut of the mama is transferred through the lymphatic system by dendritic cells migrate to developing breast tissue milk where it deposits the bacteria. Everyday I am blown away by how amazing our bodies are.
Supplement with probiotics! Genestra is my favourite brand of probiotics. They have both a formula and breastfed probiotic which I love. It’s also beneficial for mama to take probiotics during pregnancy and if possible deal with any gut flora imbalances prior to conceiving so we have an optimal micro biome. As mentioned earlier, the Swansea trial showed that Mothers that supplemented with probiotics during pregnancy and babies that were given probiotic for the first 6 months of life were 44% less likely to develop reactions to common allergens such as dust, pollen, dairy, etc. and over 50% less likely to develop eczema. Probiotics are really a no brainer especially if you had a c-section and are unable to breastfeed.
Considering the benefits and prevention of future health issues, those options to improve baby’s gut flora are definitely some things to consider if you are planning on having babies soon or are currently pregnant.
I have articles linked below if you want to research for yourself (I highly recommend) and share them with your partner, midwife, OB, etc so you are all on the same page and communicate clearly what you want during your birth plan.
Knowledge is power and if you take away anything from my page is that we need to take our health into our own hands.