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

Join us for the last Positive Birth Meeting for 2016

REMINDER ALERT

This Sunday (27 November) is the last Positive Birth Movement (Havering) meeting for 2016. This month’s discussion is around caesarean sections, but no doubt we will talk about other things!

These meetings are free to attend and are a friendly and informal way to meet with other mums-to-be, mums and birth professionals to discuss things that are pregnancy and birth related.

The group is run by Lynn Zanatta from The Daisy Foundation Havering and Christine from Magical Baby Moments is always there to offer additional friendly tips from a hypnobirthing point of view.

Come and join us at Harris + Hoole inside Tesco at Roneo Corner, Romford. (10am-12pm).

No need to register, just show up.

Join October’s Group hypnobirthing course in Romford

If you’re 20+ weeks pregnant and looking for a comprehensive antenatal course that teaches you everything you need to know about labour and birth; the choices that you have and fabulous techniques that will keep you calm, confident and relaxed. 

This evening group course, taking place in October will get you fully prepared for your baby’s arrival and beyond!

Get in touch!
www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes

#pregnant #pregnancy #hypnobirthing #kghypnobirthing #magicalbabymoments #Romford #Essex

Another great weekend teaching Hypnobirthing to expectant parents in Romford 

This weekend 10 & 11 September saw more expectant parents in the Romford area learn about hypnobirthing. Here’s what they had to say about the course: 

“I feel more informed and now have an idea on how I want the birth of my baby to be.” Nisha

“I am a lot calmer and more positive about giving birth.” Sarah

“Hypnobirthing is something every expectant couple should try and experience. There is so much to think about when preparing for your baby and this helps to focus, through a condensed information pack and relaxation scripts.” Mayank

“I feel much better now, as this is our first baby. I didn’t know what to expect but now I feel more confident it will be s nice experience.” Sergio

If you want to prepare for your baby’s birth, find out more on Magical Baby Moments website.

Be informed and prepared for your baby’s birth

So if you’re expecting a baby, you have no doubt been excited throughout your pregnancy.  As the labour looms ever-closer, perhaps that excitement is fading and other feelings are creeping in as the unknown of that big day rears its head.

For many first-time mums, friends and family members will fill their heads with negative aspects of the birthing experience and they will use words like ‘pain’, ‘trauma’ to talk about their births, as well as describe the menu of pain-relief options that they needed to ‘get through it’. All of this is extremely damaging to the mum-to-be.

Let’s ask ourselves a quick question. Why do all other animals cope so well with birth (without medical assistance) but us mere mortals just aren’t able to? Or can we? Is it just the mindset that we have conditioned ourselves to think that is the barrier to us being able to enjoy and celebrate birth as an exciting and empowering experience?

In recent years, women are seeking out hypnobirthing courses, as a full antenatal preparation class, which not only teaches them the physical side of what is happening to the body during labour, but also teaches them tools and techniques to manage labour more efficiently and calmly. They believe that there must be more to us and that we should be more aligned with our friends in the animal kingdom.

So what is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a tried and tested method that prepares a woman in giving birth in a peaceful and natural way, often without the need for medical intervention. Women who hypnobirth learn special breathing techniques, relaxation, visualisation and meditative practice that help them stay relaxed in labour, and as a result tend to have an easier and shorter labour. They learn to trust in nature and trust in their bodies.

Why should you choose hypnobirthing for your baby’s birth?

Women who use hypnobirthing during labour found that hypnobirthing encourages the birth experience to be natural, calm and comfortable. It often allows the mother to feel more alert and in control, as well as giving them the tools to manage the intensity of labour. This often results in not needing the level of pain-relief that she had anticipated and in some cases they don’t need any at all.

Hypnobirthing classes also help teach the birthing partner to be actively involved and reinforces the important role that they have in the birth, both supporting mum and protecting their baby.

Used correctly, the hypnobirthing breathing, visualisation and relaxation techniques lessens the physical impact of childbirth, as the techniques encourage the mother to work with her body gently – this often results in shorter labours. All of this combined, potentially allows the baby to be born in a calm, gentle and drug-free atmosphere,

Magical Baby Moments Group Hypnobirthing Course JulyWhat to expect in a hypnobirthing class:

You will come away understanding how the body and mind work together; appreciating that the mind is much more powerful than we realise. You will also be taught:

  • Self-hypnosis – to help you to induce deep relaxation
  • Fear release methods – to allow you to be relaxed and confident for the birth
  • Massage techniques – to stimulate endorphins, your body’s natural pain-killer
  • Visualisation exercises – to keep you grounded, calm and positive
  • Positions for labour and birth – staying in an upright position can help to shorten the length of your labour

The ideal time to start classes is anytime after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This will allow you ample time to practise. If you’re already past this stage, don’t be put off. You can still benefit from classes in your last weeks of pregnancy as the techniques are simple to understand and easy to practice.

Magical Baby Moments is based in Romford, Essex and offers regular group courses or private classes to couples every month. To find out more visit www.magicalbabymoments.com or call Christine on 07764 680 215.

Hypnobirthing weekend course in May

PLACES AVAILABLE FOR 7 & 8 MAY
Wanting a positive and relaxed birth? Don’t miss out on the upcoming weekend course.

Magical Baby Moments Group Hypnobirthing Course – 7 & 8 May, Romford, Essex.

Learn how to:
⭐️Release fear and tension – to avoid pain and intervention

⭐️⭐️ Learn to instantly switch off outside distractions – to induce deep relaxation

⭐️⭐️⭐️Use visualisation exercises and affirmations – to keep you confident, calm and positive.

Small intimate groups in a friendly relaxing environment in Romford.
Call to book your place. Details are on magicalbabymoments website.

Book before 1 May and get two Maternity Meet-up relaxation sessions for free (worth £20).
#magicalbabymoments #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthingclasses #kghypnobirthing #labour #birth #pregnancy #pregnant #hypnobirthingclassesessex #calmbirth #positivebirth #Romford #ilford #brentwood #gideapark #rainham #essex #eastlondon