When a baby is born vaginally, he or she is colonized by beneficial microbes that live in the mother’s birth canal. The first germs to reach a baby born via Caesarian section, however, primarily come from the delivery room environment. Some experts believe that this difference in post-birth exposure can impact a child’s long-term health; C-section babies may be at increased risk for immune and metabolic disorders like Type 1 diabetes, allergies, and asthma.
Fortunately, a small but significant study has confirmed that a mother’s microbes can be transferred from her vagina to her baby after a C-section. Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor of medicine at New York University and lead author of the report, studied 18 babies born at the University of Puerto Rico hospital in San Juan. Eleven of those babies were born by elective C-section. Prior to the birth of four of the C-section babies, microbes were collected by inserting a sterile piece of gauze into the mother’s vagina one hour before surgery. The gauze was removed and placed in a collector when the procedure began.
One to two minutes after the babies were delivered, researchers swabbed their lips, face, chest, arms, legs, back, genitals and anal region with the gauze. They then tracked the composition of microbes in the days after birth, and found that the bacterial colonies of babies who had been swabbed post C-section closely resembled that of vaginally delivered babies.
Though the procedure is not yet recommended by medical professionals, a comprehensive study of vaginal microbial transfer is currently being performed at New York University. Eighty-four mothers have participated thus far.
Read the full story at the New York Times.