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30th Jul 2015

Could having a C-section affect the long-term health of your baby?

The number of Caesarean sections taking place around the world each year is on the rise.

This has been attributed to the increase in twin pregnancies (whether due to advanced maternal age or IVF treatment), obesity, interventions such as foetal heart rate monitoring or induction of labour.

We know that a woman who has had a C-section needs to take care of herself to ensure proper wound healing and allow for the six-week recovery time afterwards, but what about her baby? Are there any risks associated with delivering your baby via C-section, instead of naturally?

Immune health

You may not have heard of the ‘microbiome’ yet but this term, which is used to describe to the genetic material of health-promoting bacteria within the gut will soon become common knowledge. Researchers have discovered the enormous impact these tiny, bacterial cells have on every aspect of our health, but in particular our immune function.

The theory is known as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which is based on the idea that when things are too clean, or in the case of C-section babies, where a sterile environment is the first point of contact, this sets up the immune system for problems further down the line.

Babies who aren’t delivered vaginally don’t pick-up bacteria from their mother’s vaginal canal, so are likely to benefit from supplemental probiotics to help re-culture their immature guts.

Health Fix: Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to help your baby’s developing immune system in the early stages after birth. If breastfeeding is an option for you, then this will supply a high concentration of nutrients and antibodies to bolster your baby’s defences. However, whether bottle or breastfeeding, a C-section baby would still benefit from the addition of powdered, infant-specific, probiotics to help re-culture the sterile gut environment. If breastfeeding, you can dab a bit of the probiotic powder on the nipple or stir it into the bottle for expressed or formula feeds.

Ease of feeding

Babies born via C-section have more of a tendency towards colic. This isn’t necessarily because of the C-section itself, it could be that your baby was in an awkward position while in the womb (e.g. breech) and this affected his or her digestive function.

Health fix: After trying the powdered infant-probiotics, consider cranio-sacral massage as a way to help your baby’s symptoms.

I had no issues breastfeeding my daughter and apart from lots of wind, colic wasn’t an issue for her. However, I thought it was odd that she favoured feeding from the left side so I brought her in for a check-up at six weeks old. The osteopath I was dealing with commented that my daughter had tension in her neck and that I must have had a long pushing stage (true) and this was making it uncomfortable for her to feed from the right side.

After some gentle massage of my daughters neck and back of the head I went home wondering if there would be any change. Sure enough, that night my daughter fed happily from the left hand side, for a full 30 minutes, something she had never done before.

It may not work for everyone, but I certainly think it is worth considering if you are sleep-deprived and trying to appease a crying, distressed baby.

Jessica Bourke’s clinical approach is based on evidence-based nutrition protocols, acupuncture treatment, and she also offers functional lab tests to support you on your journey to parenthood. She’s a regular contributor to Irish media and co-author of the ‘Guilt Free Gourmet’ cook-book. As a Mum of two, Jessica understands the challenges of pregnancy and parenting. For more, visit