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Cesarean Delivery May Affect Long term Health of Baby

In recent years, there has been an increasing incidence of allergy and atopic diseases (eczema, asthma). There are varying hypothesis – including environmental factors, vaccines, and the hygiene hypothesis.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, early exposure to a wealth of microorganisms balances our immune system. Microorganisms help regulate the immune system and develop the regulatory T cells, which suppress the Th1 and Th2 subsets of our white blood cells. Without the microorganisms, an imbalance occurs and predisposes to more allergic and atopic conditions. One researcher has said that the word hygiene is a misleading term and should be coined the ‘microbial deprivation hypothesis’.

At birth, babies are born with a sterile intestine, and then over time, their digestive tracts get populated with microorganisms, some that are beneficial in developing our immune system. Babies born vaginally get some of their microflora through vaginal delivery, their digestive tract getting seeded with bacteria as they travel through. Cesarean born babies do not get this beneficial bacteria in their digestive tracts.

An Italian study published in the The Journal of Nutrition in 2008 compared the microorganisms of 3 day old infants between those delivered vaginally and those delivered via Cesarean (C-section). This study concluded that vaginally delivered infants had a more diverse range of microorganisms compared to Cesarean delivered infants.

What was interesting was that Cesarean delivered infants in this study had an absence of the bifidobacterium species. The Bifidobacterium species are beneficial because anti-inflammatory properties have been identified with these bacteria.

If you have no choice and require a C-section, consider supplementing with an appropriate infant probiotic containing Bifidobacterium.

Reference: G. Biasucci, B. Benenati, et al. Cesrean Delivery May Affect the Early Biodiversity of Intestinal Bacteria. J. Nutr. September 1, 2008 vol 138 no9: 1796S-1800S

Björkstén B. The Hygiene hypothesis: do we still believe in it? Nestle Nutr WorkshopSer Pediatr Program. 2009;64:11-8; discussion 18-22, 251-7. Epub 2009 Aug 19. Khokhlova EV, Smeianov VV, Efimov BA, Kafarskaia LI, Pavlova SI, Shkoporov AN. Microbiol Immunol. 2011 Nov 1. doi: 10.1111/j.1348-0421.2011.00398.x. [Epub ahead of print]