Microbiomes & Cesarean Birth

I came across an article in the U-T today talking about “vaginal microbial transfer” and its importance in cesarean birth. You might be thinking “What in the world is that?!?,” but I’ll tell you why I am intrigued by this topic.

First, when I did my doula training Penny Simkin, one of the most respected leaders in the field of childbirth (she co-authored the book Terry and I used as the “textbook” in our childbirth education classes back in 1986. And, yes, I realize many of you were not even born yet!), talked about the importance of microbiome seeding in the birth process. She has some great videos on the topic which can be found on YouTube. Frankly, I didn’t really get what the fuss was all about at first but in the years since my training I have read much more on the topic.

Second, this topic intrigues me because our country has abysmal cesarean rates. At San Diego hospitals rates range from 25-48% of births with most of the larger hospitals in the 30-40% range. Babies delivered by cesarean are statistically more likely to develop obesity, asthma, allergies and immune deficiencies. They also miss out on having their guts colonized during the birth process. The study this article references found that babies who were born via cesarean had significantly less Lactobacillus – the “friendly bacteria” – in their anal samples.

Third, this topic intrigues me because there is a possible solution which can help babies born via cesarean birth to gain at least some of the benefits of vaginal birth. Now, to the average expectant mom or dad this next part might seem a little gross, but bear with me. This study found that by inserting a gauze pad into the mother’s vagina during labor or prior to a cesarean and then swabbing the newborn baby’s mouth and body with that gauze after birth, at least partial restoration of the microbiome occurs. This is exciting information for those times when a cesarean becomes the necessary  choice for birth.

Read the study here for yourself: j.mp/vmicrobiome

Some other ways to protect your baby’s microbiome in the immediate postpartum period:

•As much as possible, have only mom and dad’s hands on baby

•Bring blankets from your home with your microbiomes to use on mom and baby after birth

•Forego the hat instead keeping baby warm via skin-to-skin contact with mom




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