C-Section: Effects on a Baby’s Microbiome
by Natalise Kalea Robinson
Here’s an interesting assertion that many scientists now believe to be true: the method of childbirth can affect health outcomes for the infant; that is, if you were born through a C-section, your various microbiomes across and within your body might have a different microbial makeup than if you were born via vaginal delivery. This shift in the microbiome ecosystem may have affected (and may continue to affect) your day-to-day health over the course of your life.
Over the past decade, the rate of C-section worldwide has risen significantly by 250%, which has led to positive and negative outcomes in health for the mother and child. Due to this significant increase, medical professionals are urging mothers-to-be to seek guidance on choosing which type of childbirth is best for their situation (WHO). One of the concerns that is associated with having a C-section is that the infant has an underdeveloped microbiome compared to vaginal birth infants.
How does a C-section differ from vaginal delivery?
For vaginal delivery, the mother waits for her “water to break” and then, at this point, she must begin the physical challenge of “pushing” the baby through the vagina; this can take many hours. However, during a C-section procedure, the mother is placed under anesthesia and an incision is made near the abdominal wall and uterus, where the baby will exit (Cleveland). C-sections are commonly done when there are risks of complications from vaginal delivery. In these cases, it is imperative to move forward with this alternative method. However, it is important to be cognizant of how a C-section procedure can affect the infant into adulthood.
Why does a C-section affect a person’s microbiome?
In the vagina, there are communities of microorganisms that are present that interact with one another. When the baby enters the vagina, the microorganisms that are present latch on to the newborn and serve as a foundational microbiome. Since newborns that are delivered through C-section do not pass through the vagina, they do not access these microbes that are important for microbiome development, which can serve as protection from pathogenic bacteria and aid in general immunity.
On average, when looking solely at the development of the microbiome of newborns, the ones delivered through C-section do have a different composition of microbes in their microbiome compared to vaginal delivered newborns (Dunn). And unfortunately, there is evidence that newborns who were delivered via C-section have a microbiome correlated with a higher rate of immune related illnesses in the body and even on the skin (Kong).
Today, in some cases, C-section babies have the option to go through a process called vaginal seeding to help with their microbiome development. After the baby exits the womb from surgery, the newborn is swabbed with a gauze that has essential microbes from vaginal fluids to replicate the same process from vaginal delivery (Muller). However, this method is a newer technique and many people may not have access to it. In these cases, there are alternate ways to support a healthy microbiome in childhood and adulthood, whether skin or gut, through the use of bacteriophages (phages) or pre, pro, and post-biotics.
If you are curious about your skin microbiome, regardless of whether you came into this world via vaginal delivery or via C-section, you can learn more about your skin by taking a skin microbiome test. Parallel’s skin microbiome discovery kit uses the most advanced genomic sequencing to uncover not only your bacterial composition, but also viruses, mites, mold, and fungi. This understanding enables you to make more informed choices about the products you use so that you can optimize your skin health.
Be the first to get access to Parallel’s Skin Microbiome Discovery Kit and precision microbiome serums by signing up here.
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1. https://www.who.int/news/item/16-06-2021-caesarean-section-rates-continue-to-rise-amid-growing-inequalities-in-access#:~:text=Worldwide%20caesarean%20section%20rates%20have,increasing%20over%20this%20current%20decade. (WHO)