The impact of how your baby is born – what you need to know about the microbiome effect

This summer, I read The Microbiome Effect by Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford. This is a fascinating account of emerging research that shows how vital bacteria are for human health. Our exposure to them during labour, birth and beyond helps kick-start our developing immune system. This book reveals the impact of babies born via Caesarean Section (C-Section) and how this potentially alters the course of their immune development and makes them more susceptible to non-communicable diseases.

Here is my synopsis, of what I believe is a must-read for all birth educators and expectant parents, to understand the intricacies of a vaginal birth and the vital components that help your baby thrive in the outside world.

Human bodies are comprised of trillions of human cells and microbes (bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi etc). These cells and microbes live on and inside us. The bacteria inside our body help keep us functioning properly and give us the ability to fight off diseases. However, modern ways of living, such as diet, antibiotics and C-sections – to name a few – are adjusting the diversity of microbiomes in the human body. Current research indicates that this alteration in the way we live is giving rise to many common non-communicable diseases such as allergies, asthma, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, obesity and more.

For a long time, antenatal educators have explained to its parents-to-be the benefits of a vaginal birth vs a C-section birth, in regards to babies breathing abilities. In a vaginal birth, the birth canal compresses the lungs to expel the liquid that has been in them during pregnancy; so that once earth-side, the lungs are fairly clear of liquid and breathing unassisted comes more easily.

The research conducted, which is discussed in this book, digs deeper. It looks into many other vital stages that a baby encounters during a vaginal birth, which can impact his/her long-term health positively. Other scientific tests are indicating that there is a link with an imbalance in the human microbiome (often caused via Caesarean section deliveries) and with chronic non-transmissible diseases.

It is believed that during pregnancy a baby lives in a near sterile environment and exposure to microbiomes is minimal. It is during a vaginal birth, once the amniotic sac had ruptured, that a baby begins to be exposed to bacteria. This is when it comes into contact with vaginal, faecal and skin microbes. These enter the baby’s eyes, ears, nose, as well as being swallowed through the mouth. This prenatal exposure is one of the main seeding events for the baby’s gut. Once the baby is born it will come into contact with more bacteria – from the air in the place of birth, from the skin of its caregivers and parents etc. All of these encounters help to colonise the baby’s gut.

Babies born via a Caesarean section (C-section) potentially miss out on this exposure, if the amniotic sac hasn’t ruptured, because they won’t come into contact with the mother’s vaginal or intestinal microbes. As a result the baby’s gut microbiome composition will be different.

Latest research favours infants that are born via C-section to have skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding where possible, because the second major influx of microbes is during these two events (babies born vaginally are also recommended to do this too).

During skin-to-skin contact, and when a baby is looking for milk, it will open its mouth and suckle or lick the mother’s skin. A mother’s breastmilk is incredibly rich. It provides essential nutrients for the baby’s growth and development, including key immune components and sugars. The sugars not only provide energy for the baby, but it also feeds the bacteria in the gut, quickly colonising it and preventing other harmful bacteria from taking hold. These events and opportunities to come into contact with the right bacteria kick-starts the continued development of the infant immune system. The bacteria teach the immune system to recognise friendly and harmful bacteria, and know what to attack, or not.

In contrast, a baby that is fed formula milk will only receive the nutritional benefits. This milk is missing prebiotics to feed the gut microbes. It also lacks the right bacterial species and immune components that the developing baby needs. These missing components could impact the training of the infant immune system, which could mean health implications later in life.

All the way through pregnancy, labour, birth and infancy things are supposed to happen at certain times. When the birth process is interrupted with medical intervention, the evolution of the immune system is disturbed, which could result in it malfunctioning later in life.

Research has also shown that the microbial profile of a baby born vaginally resembles that of its mother, and continues to do so with each generation that is born vaginally. However when this pattern is interrupted by a C-section delivery, the child may not match the mother’s microbial profile and the child may fail to inherit critical “keystone” species of bacteria to ensure good health. C-sections could be contributing to key microbe species being lost, making us more susceptible to pandemics.

Other evidence suggests a correlation in C-section babies having a higher risk of developing asthma, type one diabetes or coeliac disease, and of becoming overweight or obese. This is not to say that all babies born this way will go one to develop any of these, they are simply more susceptible. What we don’t know yet is the ongoing repercussions of this.

So what can we do about it?

As an antenatal educator, I feel it is my duty to inform my parents of the potential health implications of babies born via a C-section. Parents need to better understand the importance of vaginal births, as a way to ensure that their baby receives the necessary exposure to bacteria, which will help colonise its gut in the right way – to ensure a fully functioning immune system.

There will always be world in which some babies are needed to be delivered via C-section, therefore what steps can the caregivers take to help the baby receive optimal seeding and feeding? Mothers can be tested to see if they are suitable for “swab-seeding” (this is currently under a strict protocol). However for the feeding aspect, there is now no reason why babies cannot be passed to mothers straight away in all elective C-sections (and some in emergency C-sections); so that the baby can have skin-to-skin contact and have the opportunity to begin breastfeeding. This will allow the baby to be exposed to essential bacteria and microbes and helping to kick-start an immune system that could keep them healthy throughout their life.

This article only scratches the surface and highlights the key points of the book. I strongly recommend mothers to read it and learn more about it. Ask your midwife and/or obstetrician how much they know about this subject. If they don’t know too much about this subject, politely ask them to do their research. Your baby’s life is in their hands.

The Microbiome Effect book coverThe Microbiome Effect is published by Pinter and Martin and is available on their website.

If you would like to learn more about Magical Baby Moments visit www.magicalbabymoments.com

Positive Birth Conference seeks to improve women’s experience of birth

On 20 July 2017, I attended the Positive Birth Conference at City University in London. I just love being around birthing professionals and feeding off their knowledge and enthusiasm, and this conference was no disappointment.

There was a stellar line-up of speakers, including:

  • Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive, Royal College of Midwives
  • Professor Susan Ayers, Professor of Maternal Child Health, City, University of London
  • Octavia Wiseman, REACH
  • Ellinor Olander, Senior Lecturer, City, University of London
  • Milli Hill, Positive Birth Movement

The themes of the day centred very much on what women are looking for when it comes to their birth experience and how to potentially give them a better birth experience.

This was approached from many angles, including continuity of care. The presentations and discussions challenged where the line for this currently stops and where more could be done to improve this.

So what are women looking for?

  • to have a safe birth
  • to be able to choose the care that is right for them
  • to have care that wraps around them with no pressure to make choices that simply fit with service provisions
  • to be listened to and not categorised
  • to be taken seriously with honest discussions about risks, if they arise
  • to receive continuous and consistent high-quality communication

Where to give birth

Choices regarding her place of birth have been identified as an area for improvement. Not all women report having made a choice – and the decision that women make is not neutral. Many factors can influence a woman’s decision. The crux of it is; choices are constrained by reality (e.g. choice of place of birth is not available, classification of mothers (low risk/high risk) may rule out the birth centre, for example).

The Better Birth initiative states that women should have three choices of place of birth, NICE – the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – recommends four: Obstetric Unit (hospital), Alongside Maternity Unit (birth centre within a hospital0, Freestanding Maternity Unit (standalone birth centre), Home. Regardless of where women are in the country, they should be able to make a choice from all offerings.

Midwives are advised not to just accept women asking for what they want but to ask them to explain why they have made that choice. The midwife should then ensure that the benefits and potential risks of that choice are understood, as well as making certain that all other choices have been explained in the same way. This allows the woman to make choices in an informed way and that she has the full scope of options first. The she can reaffirm her final decision on where to birth.

Continuity of Care

Some areas of the UK are criticised for lack of continuity in antenatal care, though this is starting to be addressed in some Trusts with the reintroduction of case-loading (seeing the same midwife/small team of midwives throughout a woman’s pregnancy). However it felt that more could be done to ensure a woman is given the right care during pregnancy and a smoother handover from the midwives to the health visitors, so that upon the first appointment with a health visitor they are already aware of the woman’s pregnancy and birth experience.

Ellinor Olander spoke about this theme and her study identified factors that women said we/weren’t important to them:

  • Location of appointments: meeting their caregivers in the same location for antenatal appointment was not important to them; however home visits after birth is appreciated.
  • Staff: When considering the transition from midwife to health visitor, face-to-face contact with health visitor in pregnancy is not needed. An introduction via post or email would be welcome. New mums would appreciate not having to repeat their medical history to the health visitor and would appreciate a better hand over from the midwife. Some said it would be helpful to the first meeting with both professionals together – especially for women have had traumatic experiences.
    • Most respondents had a named midwife, this was not important to all of them.
    • Most had met with more than one health visitor
  • Information: Most women wanted to receive consistent information from all the caregivers they came into contact with

Continuity of care is also especially important in women who have experienced some degree of trauma.

Birth Trauma: Risk and Resilience in Women was the theme of Professor Ayers presentation.

She shared her research on women who have suffered some degree of trauma during labour and birth and who have as a result experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Evidence shows that 4% of women experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in pregnancy and a further 3-4% develop PTSD as a result of birth. However, most women who have a traumatic birth don’t go on to develop PTSD (55%). Risk and resilience factors have been identified during the study and medical professionals can use these findings to prevent PTSD and enhance positive outcomes.

The events that occur during pregnancy and birth are important, as these are what contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Natal Depression. Although much of this is based on the individual’s subjective thoughts around the events, rather than the events in themselves (some women are more acute to situations than others and it may not be the event in isolation but a number of factors that have added to the woman’s life experiences).

Even though it has been cited that 3-4% of women can experience PTSD in pregnancy, this can be as high as 39% for those who have a history of abuse.

PTSD can result in:

  • Preterm birth
  • Low birth weight

Stress in pregnancy is known to carry over to baby. Evidence shows that these babies have an increased response to stress, which carries into their later lives.

We hear often about war veterans suffering from PTSD and ongoing drives to raise funds to support to these individuals. However, in terms of number of individuals, this perceived low percentage of women who suffer from PTSD is much, much higher than those of veterans. Resources need to be found in order to support these women better.

Ayers research has delved into analysing the care that women received after birth and what positive impact this has had. For those that have received support, a pattern that has emerged. Women who experience birth trauma and who receive support, find strength and resilience to move forward and give meaning to that event, which often sees the woman experience growth from that crisis.

So how can risk be reduced?

The most common responses were:

  1. Better communication (39%)
  2. Be listened to more (37%)
  3. Be supported more/better, both emotionally/practically (30%)

As a result of this study, a framework has been put together to identify those women who are potentially at risk in order to customise their care during, pregnancy, birth, postnatally, all of which needs to be fed back into the services to build up more expertise.

The conclusion was that with this new insight, we can develop personalised care when we have identified women at risk, and by offering them the correct support maternity services can enhance positive outcomes.

Octavia Wiseman, spoke to us about the REACH Pregnancy Programme, which is a five year study, currently about half way. 

This study aims to identify women who may not usually seek full antenatal care, possibly due to one of the following factors:

  • Socio economic, linguistic and cultural diversity
  • Social issues
  • Practical issues
  • Demographic issues
  • Cultural issues
  • Health issues

The aim is to find these women living amongst us and offer them the antenatal care that they may otherwise miss out on.

The study is also trialling Pregnancy Circles, which brings together pregnant women who are at similar stages in pregnancy and who live near each other, for clinical care, information-sharing and social support. The Pregnancy Circles aim to provide a woman-friendly, community environment for antenatal care. These meetings are 2 hours long, rather than the 15 minute appointments expectant mums would normally receive. So far these meetings have been positively welcomed.

As a co-cost of Havering’s The Positive Movement, it was a personal delight to hear the final speaker of the day Milli Hill. It was great to hear how she has inspired so many women to take up her movement and bring women together to look at birth positively. She centred her presentation on Carl Jung’s Shadow Theory. Jung saw quite clearly that failure to recognise, acknowledge and deal with shadow elements is often the root of problems between individuals and within groups and organisations. Hill challenged us to consider the shadows in birth, midwifery and within ourselves.

It was a really interesting day and in the two years that I have been a part of this industry I continue to learn so much from my peers. My wish however, would be to see a maternity care that is stripped of the red tape, so that the midwives who go into the profession wanting to be with women, can dedicate their time caring for them throughout their journeys. Continuous care is not a new thing, better births is what we all strive for. These conferences help solidify our ambitions towards a positive birth experience, if only it could happen a little faster.

Last chance to attend Mothercare’s Expectant Parent Event in Romford

Don’t miss out on the last of Mothercare’s Expectant Parent Event, taking place on 2 March.

Hear what Magical Baby Moments and other local baby-related companies do, as well as speak to the experts at Mothercare on all that you will need for the arrival of your little one.

If you are expecting a baby, this is an invaluable event, where you will get to meet the experts in store to advise and guide you through the minefield that can be preparing for a newborn. There are goodies and discounts to be had too.

With Magical Baby Moments you will find out how hypnobirthing can help you during your pregnancy, labour,  birth and beyond.

It’s a full antenatal course that teaches you and your birth partner:

⭐️ the physical side of what is happening in labour and the journey your baby needs to take to join you
⭐️⭐️ overcome any anxieties and fears surrounding childbirth so that you are positive and excited about labour and birth
⭐️⭐️⭐️ lifelong skills in how to remain calm and positive in situations where you might feel panicked or stressed

Join us between 6-8pm
Mothercare, Rom Valley Way, Romford

I look forward to meeting you soon.

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About Magical Baby Moments

Magical Baby Moments offers group hypnobirthing courses in Romford and Upminster, and private courses across Essex and London. Check online at http://www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes to find out upcoming dates.

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Don’t miss out on a hypnobirthing course this March

If you’re 20 weeks pregnant or beyond, it’s time to get yourself booked on a hypnobirthing course.

Why? What will I benefit from it?

No other antenatal course is as rounded and broad as a hypnobirthing one. It covers all the facts and feelings, changes and challenges that you might face in late pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond.

If you want to have informed choice, rather than being guided blindly into situations, hypnobirthing classes will arm you with the information.

Did you know…

  • You can decline induction*
  • Vaginal examinations are not necessary
  • C-sections can often be riskier than VBACs
  • The first hour after birth is a crucial time for bonding with your baby 

These are just a few of the many topics that are covered in a hypnobirthing course. Read the full course outline

Magical Baby Moments runs both evening and weekend courses in Romford and Upminster throughout the year.

There’s are a few places available in March, so if you’re more than half way through your pregnancy, now is the time to get you and your birth partner booked in.

Take a look at the Classes page for dates and times.

If you have any questions, please call Christine on 07764 680 215.

*recommended if there are no medical concerns for you or your baby. Being past your due date does not costitute as a medical concern on its own.

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What to pack for the hospital when having a baby?

Call me naïve, but when I was first pregnant the idea that came to mind when they asked if I had my hospital bag packed by the front door, was a small rucksack-type bag with a few bits.

However, when the time came for me to start preparing what I needed I was shocked. How could such a short stay in a hospital with me, my husband and our little bundle require so much stuff? When I laid it all out, I needed a big suitcase for a 2-week holiday…not a little rucksack by the door…do you realise how small my hallway is??

Then I realised maybe it wouldn’t just be one bag but then maybe 3 or 4 bags!!

  • One for me, before birth
  • One for me, for after birth
  • One for baby
  • One for daddy…

And that’s not including the ‘extras’ that I thought I might like, such as the birthing ball and my pillow…oh and the car seat!!!

Blimey, it was a minefield. So to make things easy for you, I have created a simple checklist of what you need to pack for your stay in the hospital when having a baby.

Make sure that you have everything you need for your stay. I have everything covered in this single page checklist, for mum (before and after birth), baby and your birth partner.

About Magical Baby Moments

Magical Baby Moments offers group hypnobirthing courses in Romford and Upminster, and private courses across Essex and London. Check online at http://www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes to find out upcoming dates.

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Places available for upcoming hypnobirthing courses in Romford and Upminster

If you’re expecting a baby and you are 20 weeks or beyond, now is the time to book yourself into a hypnobirthing course to prepare you for labour and birth.

Often people will have unnecessary fears about labour and it doesn’t have to be this way. Many women, especially those who prepare with hypnobirthing, have really positive experiences to tell.

Have friends and family only told you the negative aspects of their birth? 
Are you basing labour and birth by how it is portrayed on TV and in films?
How many positive birth stories can you count? 

Maybe not too many. But there are hundreds of women every day who give birth in a positive and calm environment. They feel confident and in control of their labour and the path that unfolds for her and her baby. This can be you too….

Read some birth stories from Magical Baby Moments.

Book your place on a Hypnobirthing Course and learn how to:

  • Release fear and tension – to avoid pain and intervention
  • Learn self-hypnosis – to induce deep relaxation
  • Use visualisation exercises and affirmations – to keep you confident, serene and positive
  • Take part in a rounded antenatal course that not only teaches you the physical side of late pregnancy, labour and birth, but also gives you the toolkit to be confident, calm and comfortable during this experience.

The course is divided into four sessions and covers a vast array of topics around late pregnancy, labour and birth. Find out more about the course modules.

Ask yourself; why are we the only animals that doubt our ability to give birth? We can do it! We can do it naturally! We can do it without interventions!

Places available

There are places available on most upcoming courses, either group evening or on selected weekends.

If group dates don’t suit you, you could always opt for a private course, at a time that suits you!

About Magical Baby Moments

Magical Baby Moments offers group hypnobirthing courses in Romford and Upminster and private courses across Essex and London. Check online at www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes to find out upcoming dates.
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Last spaces available for the February hypnobirthing course on Tuesday evenings

If you are looking for a February evening course, there are only a couple of spaces left for the hypnobirthing course on Tuesday evenings. Whilst Magical Baby Moments courses run both on weekends and evenings, to suit parents’ busy lives, in February, there are no weekend courses, so be sure to not miss out on this valuable learning for you and your partner, as you prepare for the birth of your baby.

The evening hypnobirthing course takes place on 7, 15, 21 and 28 February. (15th is a Wednesday evening, to avoid clashing with Valentine’s Day)

 What does Magical Baby Moments hypnobirthing course teach?

It is a full antenatal course that teaches all aspects of late pregnancy, what to expect during labour, how to handle changes that may occur during labour in order to make the right decisions for you and your baby, as well as a host of tips and techniques to help keep you focused, calm and confident during labour and birth.

The course includes approximately 10 hours teaching time, plus the Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing Book, the Colour & Calmness relaxation CD/MP3, handouts that support the lesson plans and my support by phone/email up until the birth of your baby.

Learn what the hypnobirthing course modules are.

When should the couple do the hypnobirthing class?

Ideally any time after 20 weeks, but it will work for people in late pregnancy too. The course lasts approximately 10 hours and is usually done over 4 sessions, so it’s simply a question of scheduling it in.

February dates

The dates for the February course are 7, 15, 21, 28 and start at 8pm, allowing you time to get back from work and have dinner before joining the hypnobirthing class. (We finish around 10:15pm).

Other upcoming courses

If you can’t make theses dates, or you would prefer a later course here are the upcoming weekends:

For beyond these dates visit the Classes section on our website.

Struggling for Baby Shower or Valentine’s Day present ideas? Buy Hypnobirthing Course Vouchers

It’s not a case of needing to buy you an entire course; we sell vouchers in various amounts, to suit everyone’s budget.

Vouchers are available in £5, £10, £20, £195 and £245 amounts. Email classes@magicalbabymoments.com to order yours!

About Magical Baby Moments

Magical Baby Moments offers group hypnobirthing courses in Romford and private courses across Essex and London. Check online at www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes to find out upcoming dates.

Did you like this article..? Read more at Magical Baby Moments

Did you enjoy these tips? Follow Magical Baby Moments on any of our social channels

#pregnant #pregnancy #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthingclass #kghypnobirthing #postivebirth #magicalbabymoments #calmbirth #R0mford, #Upminster #Essex