When infants are born by cesarean section they miss receiving important good bacteria from their mothers. Missing this, according to Professor Patricia Conway, leaves them more vulnerable to health problems such as asthma and allergies.
Professor Patricia Conway of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of New South Wales, warns that babies miss out on the good bacteria they need that is found in their mother’s birth canal. As this bacteria grows on the skin, it eventually makes its way into the baby’s intestines. There it can colonize and make the beginnings of a balanced and healthy immune system.
“With a c-section, the newborn baby misses an opportunity to pick up a lot of Mum’s good bacteria,” Professor Conway said. “This can have long-term health implications, as the development of a good intestinal ecosystem is necessary for health and immunity to allergies, from childhood right through to adulthood.”
While c-sections that occur after labor has begun allow babies to be exposed to some of the necessary bacterial, elective cesarean sections have more sterile conditions. If the waters have already broken, some of the good bacteria does make its way to the baby.
Other studies have shown that infants born vaginally and those born by c-section have different white blood cells, which may affect how their bodies respond to illnesses. Australian College of Midwives vice-president Hannah Dahlen says infants born by c-section also miss important hormonal signals that occur during labor and teach their bodies how to handle stresses.
”In labour, the baby has a gradual escalation in its stress response and then a gradual decline. Research has shown that this could prime our bodies to respond to stress in a certain way,” she said.
”With a c-section, there is a cold cut and the baby has a dramatic stress response. It could be setting that child up to always over-respond to stress.”
Missing out on the good bacteria and hormone changes cold be to blame for the higher rates of asthma, diabetes, and some cancers Dahlen feels.
Babies also receive some of their mother’s bacteria after birth through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. However, studies from Europe still show that babies born by c-section are 20 percent more likely to develop diabetes. – Summer, staff writer
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