Babies born via C-section have very different microbiome in their gut than babies born vaginally
Scientists and medical professionals worldwide are currently finding more and more proof that our guts – or, to more precise, the bacteria in our guts, play a vital part in our overall health and wellness.
From the moment we are born, our microbiome keeps changing, and now researchers have discovered that there is a measurable difference in the microbiome of babies born vaginally and those born via a C-section.
For instance, studies have shown that babies born via C-section are more likely to develop obesity, asthma, and type 1 diabetes when they get older.
Previous research has also suggested that babies born by C-section are more likely to collect hospital-acquired bacteria when they are born, while those born vaginally collect microbes from their mother. Because the gut microbiome is thought to be intricately linked to health, these differences have been suggested to make C-section babies more likely to develop obesity, asthma and eczema.
“The hypothesis is that the moment of birth might be a sort of thermostatic moment for the immune system… that sets the immune system for future life,” says Nigel Field at University College London to New Scientist.
To investigate, the London-based researchers collected faecal samples from 596 babies born in UK hospitals. The samples were collected by the babies’ parents over the first few weeks of life, and when the babies were between 6 and 9 months old.
The team found that about 80 per cent of C-section-born babies had hospital-acquired bacteria in their guts when they were born, compared with 50 per cent of vaginally born babies. And the bacteria made up around 30 per cent of the total bacteria in C-section babies, compared with just 10 per cent in babies born vaginally.
However, what the researchers found was that by the time the babies were weaned at the age of around 6 to 9 months, these differences had largely disappeared, so the researchers admit it is hard to tell if there are any implications for health. “We don’t know the long-term consequences of these findings,” says Field.
Interestingly, the scientists also took faecal samples from 175 mothers and compared them with those of their 178 babies, and were surprised to find that the babies’ gut bacteria seemed to be coming from their mothers’ guts, rather than from the vagina during delivery.
This will no doubt pour cold water on the practice of vaginal seeding, which has been growing in popularity in recent years, despite is not being recommended by any clinical body.
The idea of seeding is to put a swab in the vagina of a woman who is about to have a C-section, then wipe the swab over the baby’s face or mouth to deliver the bacteria it might have picked up in a vaginal birth. However, not only are many healthcare professionals warning the practice can be dangerous, it is also completely pointless it now seems, as the bacteria picked up during vaginal births seem to come from the anal area rather than the vagina, according to this latest study.