Recent research revealed that a cesarean baby has a lesser amount of good gut bacteria from the mother when compared to a vaginally-delivered baby. Instead of the vital bacteria, microbiome- which helps our body to fight disease- their gut is filled with the harmful bacteria that are found in hospital surroundings.
In the most extensive study of its kind, researchers found that the microbes which provide immunity are passed on to vaginally-delivered babies. Meanwhile, cesarean babies gain it after a considerable amount of weaning post-birth.
Dr. Nigel Field, a clinical associate professor at University College London said during a press conference, "We think it's a critical moment in life. Babies are sterile in the womb and the moment they are born is a moment when the immune system has a huge number of bacteria it's presented with. Birth is a thermostatic moment that sets the immune system for future life."
He added that C-section babies contain bacteria that are called “opportunistic pathogens," which cause disease when the immune system deteriorates, or when the pathogens penetrate into unwanted places (i.e. tissue or bloodstream). Healthy people also carry these opportunistic bacteria without causing any disturbance.
However, with the surfacing of such findings, C-sections shouldn't be considered as a threat, as it has been a “life-saver” for numerous cases.
"Cesarean sections are life-saving and medically necessary intervention," says Lisa Stinson, a molecular microbiologist and reproductive biologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth. But she did she add that "we need a better understanding of their long-term effects on infants."
An imbalance of microbiome has been linked to diseases such as asthma, allergies, and other inflammatory diseases. But scientists are unable to conclude whether a reduced microbiome can lead to such diseases.
To understand the presence of the microbes, genomicist Yan Shao of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England- along with his colleagues- studied the gut bacteria living in 596 full-term healthy babies born in U.K. hospitals. In 314 vaginally-born infants, 68 percent of the microbiome like Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides were found present. Meanwhile, C-section babies’ gut contained these in limited amounts. But they also had harmful bacteria like Enterococcus and Clostridium that are widely found in many hospital environments.
Surprisingly, reasons for 'vaginal-swabbing' have also been questioned because none of the babies had much bacteria from their mother's vagina. This makes the process of smearing vaginal fluids onto C-section babies unnecessary. The study produced another conclusion that apart from the birth-mode, the antibiotics given during birth decides which bacteria take a position in an infant's gut. The antibiotics provided to the mother to prevent infections can kill helpful bacteria too, which suggests that some of the bacterial differences are “related to maternal antibiotic exposure — not lack of exposure to vaginal bacteria at birth,” according to Stinson.
These are just initial research findings, and their long-term consequences have yet to be studied. The difference in the bacteria is brought to level after six to nine months of weaning. More research will need to be done to learn more about this subject matter.