Birth and the Healthy Transfer of Bacteria

newborn baby on white fuzzy blanket

It’s almost time to meet your baby! Some women can’t wait for pregnancy to end while others enjoy pregnancy and are nervous about the first weeks at home. Whichever mom you are, it is definitely time to think about your baby’s Birth Day.

As you know from our previous post, babies get their first microbiome from their mothers. This gift of skin and gut bacteria is like a starter set that will grow and flourish to protect your baby against food allergies. The more complete set of bacteria at birth, the better.

How the Transfer Happens

The seeding of your baby’s gut biome begins as your baby leaves the placenta and enters the vagina. One lesser-discussed aspect of labor is that most women poop as they are pushing. Babies are typically born face-down. As your baby comes into this world, they swallow both fluids from the vaginal canal and maybe even a bit of poop, both of which make up the starting seeds of your baby’s microbiome. 

Then, as your baby nurses, she picks up more microbes from your skin. She also consumes microbes from your gut that pass through the breast milk.

Vaginal Birth Vs C-Section

We have known for a little while that one real risk factor for developing food allergies is being born via C-section rather than through the birth canal. This may be because babies born vaginally have different microbiomes than babies born via C-section. 

While more doctors and hospitals are doing their best to be patient and give moms the time and support to deliver naturally, a vaginal delivery is not always the right choice. In many cases, for the safety of both Mom and baby, doctors and parents may choose to or need to have a C-section delivery.  Let’s not forget that 10% of women used to die in childbirth before C-sections were an option. 

Plus, an interesting study showed that if your baby is swabbed with fluids from the vagina immediately after birth on the face and mouth, their microbiome is the same as babies born vaginally. In this study, moms were tested to make sure they did not have any infections that should not be passed onto their babies. A clean gauze pad was left in the vaginal tract during the C-section. It was removed and used to swab the baby. 

What You Can Do

As with everything, talk to your OB about your goals for your baby’s birth. Ask your doctor what their plans are to help baby if a C-section is the right choice. Make sure they have seen the research on the importance of proper seeding of the microbiome. And lastly, read on to learn about what happens at the hospital, and how those choices can affect the risk of allergic disease. 

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