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

Beautifully designed Birth Affirmations by We the Parents

Magical Baby Moments Hypnobirthing Course teaches its expectant parents about the benefits of using positive birth statements. Positive birth affirmations are an effective way of keeping focused and in the right mindset. They are a powerful way to train your mind to move out of the way of your body; to let nature take its course. Many women who had their minds in the right space created smoother, shorter and less challenging labour experiences than women who hadn’t known about affirmations.

Sadly, my creativity skills stopped around the time I passed the pre-schooler age! So when We the Parents got in touch with their stunning poster, I couldn’t not share it.

Here’s a beautiful and complete list of positive birthing affirmations, aggregated from different sources, for you to use so you can get on with feeling calm and prepared for your incredible labour and birth.

Positive Birthing Affirmations (Printable Poster)

Positive Birthing Affirmations (Printable Poster)

Who are We the Parents?

Neve and Keane created this blog in order to share some of their experiences and learning, as they navigate the sometimes crazy world of raising a family. In doing so, they hope to save you a little confusion, weariness and time.

WeTheParents.org

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.

The Power of Hypnobirthing book is free to download on your Kindle for a limited time. Get your copy now!

If you’ve heard about hypnobirthing, but you’re not quite sure what it’s about and whether it is right for you, then download this newly published book by Christine Huntingford, founder of Magical Baby Moments, who has written this book to explain how every single mother (and her birth partner) can enable a better birth experience by learning hypnobirthing.

The Power of Hypnobirthing – 10 reasons why it’s for you does what it says on the tin; it outlines 10 concrete reasons how learning hypnobirthing will empower the expectant mum and her birth partner to enter labour and birth with positivity and calm confidence.

Why was this book written? 

Christine herself benefited from hypnobirthing when she was pregnant with both of her children and decided to become a teacher in 2015; to spread the word to expectant mums in her community in Romford, Essex.

Here we are in 2017 and hypnobirthing is still not mainstream – and she wants to change that.

Why? Because mothers who have used it in labour have often found their birth experiences, calm, relaxed and positive.

How? By understanding the process of labour, asserting her preferences with her caregivers, so that she had the right birth experience for her and her baby.

This is not to say that hypnobirthing only advocates natural births without pain relief, in fact hypnobirthing works for all mothers for whichever pregnancy she is on (first or fifth!) and for whatever outcome her journey plays out on the day. Mothers who are planning a Caesarean Section can also benefit from the power of hypnobirthing tools and techniques.
If you’re looking for a relaxed birth and one that you will look back on with positivity, download this book. It’s available to download for free, between 4-8 June, with Amazon.

If you prefer a paperback copy, you can pre order it via the Magical Baby Moments website.

Please do leave a review. Thank you!

Hypnobirthing Course in Romford and Upminster

If you’re pregnant and looking for an antenatal class that will not only inform you about what happens in late pregnancy, labour and birth, but you also would like to learn techniques that will keep you calm and relaxed during labour and birth. Then book a hypnobirthing course with Magical Baby Moments.

You and your birth partner will leave the course empowered about your choices, confident that you will know how to deal with the journey of labour and you’ll both have a vast toolkit to keep you focused and positive for your birth experience. Magical Baby Moments also covers key areas of how to look after a newborn.The hypnobirthing course covers many topics: visit the classes section on the website for full details. 

To relax in pregnancy and during labour, you can choose from relaxation and breathing techniques to visualisations, Rebozo and much more. We will teach you them all.

Classes start on the first Tuesday of each month and also on selected weekends in Romford and Upminster, in Essex. Visit the website for more details.

If you want to hear what other couples who have done hypnobirthing thought about the course and you want to find out what their experience was like visit the Testimonials section on the website.

Evening Hypnobirthing Courses in Romford, Essex, start on the first Tuesday of the month and run for 4 weeks. Classes start at 8pm.

Weekend Hypnobirthing Courses in Romford and Upminster take place on selected weekends. (Saturdays 10am – 4pm & Sundays 10am – 1pm)

Visit the website to find out dates or call Christine on 07764 680 215.

Hypnobirthing affirmation

I trust in birth

march-i-trust-in-birth

About Magical Baby Moments

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

Follow Magical Baby Moments on any of our social channels

#pregnant #pregnancy #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthingclass #kghypnobirthing #postivebirth #magicalbabymoments #calmbirth #HornchurchLife #LoveHornchurch #HaveringLife #RomfordEvents #RomfordWOT #UpminsterCommunity

Hypnobirthing affirmation

I birth with ease

i-birth-with-ease

About Magical Baby Moments

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

Follow Magical Baby Moments on any of our social channels

#pregnant #pregnancy #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthingclass #kghypnobirthing #postivebirth #magicalbabymoments #calmbirth #HornchurchLife #LoveHornchurch #HaveringLife #RomfordEvents #RomfordWOT #UpminsterCommunity