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Caesarian sections and the effect on the baby's gut - benefits of probiotics

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
pregnancy, antenatal, caesarian section, probiotics
It's not very often that Karen has a WOW moment when she reads some medical research, but it has arrived and it's huge.

We've known for a while that allergies in babies and children have had a massive increase in incidence. We've also realised that exposure to a few friendly bugs in a child's environment is helpful in developing immunity to them. And that being too clean and creating sterile environments is not really good for a baby's immune system.

Scientists have looked at it further and discovered that babies born vaginally have a head start on their immune system by being exposed to microbes in the vaginal birth canal. As the baby is born, it ingests the vaginal bacteria and this lines the gut. This provides a baby with its first exposure to bacteria and it helps build up a healthy resistance to bacteria.

So babies born by caesarian section are not exposed to the bacterial flora.

If these babies are breastfed they were found to have a different type of gut flora (good bacteria) than those fed by formula.

Scientists knew that caesarian section babies were statistically more likely to have allergies, asthma, diabetes, and obesity. Now they understand the reasons why a little better. It's all to do with the initial exposure at birth to natural bacteria in the vagina, and if they are breastfed they gain further protection.

So what does that mean for formula fed caesarian section babies?

Mother bottle feeding baby

It may be a good idea to either - give a probiotic or,  give an infant formula that contains probiotics. This will protect their immune systems. Like I said huge stuff.

Probiotics help promote healthy gut flora. They can be given to breast and formula fed babies from newborn. Some preparations are mixed breast milk or infant formula, then given directly to the baby on their tongue and ingested.

This is something that should be talked and known about. After all, we're talking about potentially better health outcomes for babies in these 'at risk' categories.

So which infant formula's in Australia have a probiotic in them?

Nan Ha Gold  1 and Nan Pro and Heinz Nurture Gold with digestiplus.

The study sample was only 20 babies but the results were statistically very significant. The researchers plan to take it the next stage and look at what particular risks are more likely by caesarian section babies and being formula fed.

It's also important to look at a family's genetics and risk factors for disease. It's never as simplistic as the method of birth and the method of feeding. So all of you parents out there - don't panic if your baby was born by caesarian section and has infant formula without pre or probiotics or bifidus.

Now I'm going to turn this all on its head! Literally.

I was born vaginally, a home birth. I was breastfed and I was brought up on a farm with a healthy exposure to dirt and animal fur. And I've got asthma, eczema, hay fever and an auto-immune disease. On the other hand, my sister was formula fed and a vaginal birth but no allergies whatsoever. Like I said sometimes our genetics play a larger part in things, but this research is certainly worth taking an interest in. Food for thought!

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