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

Free event at Mothercare, Romford for expectant parents

Come along to Mothercare on 22 February and/or 2 March to their Expectant Parent Event to 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.

# mothercare #pregnant #birth #positivebirth #magicalbabymoments #pregnancy #hypnobirthing #romford

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.

Follow Magical Baby Moments on any of our social channels

 

5 simple ways for dads to bond with their baby

The daddy-baby bond is a very special one. So while most young babies will spend lots of time with mum, it’s very important for dad to care for your little one too. Lots of cuddles and play time is essential. In fact, it forms the basis for a healthy father-child relationship.

New dads and their newborns have a special bond. Learn how to build a closer attachment with your baby during those precious first few weeks.

If you’re and new dad and you are not quite sure how to start bonding with your newborn, you’re not alone. While some parents begin bonding with their babies immediately, it’s also extremely common for some parents (both mum and dad) to feel a little uncertain about how to start getting close to their baby.

But bonding is really important. Whatever the long-term effects may be, we know for sure that strong, healthy relationships will improve your baby’s development by giving them a sense of security and self-esteem. What’s more, you can start forming those bonds as soon as your baby is born. It’s something you’ll be able to do during the course of your daily routine. Here’s how:

1. Hold your baby
You love your baby, and your baby will love being in your arms. New dads should carry their newborns cradle them, and keep them close to their skin for added bonding. Your baby will come to learn your familiar smell and will be comforted by your presence, even in those very early days. So be sure to start those cuddles as early as you can.

2. Massage your baby
Simple massages can help your baby relax and fall asleep. The key is to massage very gently. You might like to go to an infant massage class at your local hospital or read up on the subject.

3. Communicate with them

Your baby might not know what you’re saying, but that doesn’t mean they won’t like hearing the sound of your voice. Whether you’re reading, singing, or talking to your baby (or even mimicking those cute cooing noises), you’ll stimulate their senses and create a stronger bond with one another. (If you’re reading this while your partner is still pregnant, remember that a baby hears sounds while in the womb, so there is nothing to stop you chatting to your baby even before they are born, so that they are familiar with your voice).

4. Give them a bath
Giving your new-born a bath will help both of you relax after a busy day and get your baby ready for a good night’s sleep. Also using this time to bond exclusively with your baby also gives mum a chance to recharge her batteries for a short while.

5. Get into the swing with a sling
There will be times when you want to be near your new-born but aren’t actually able to hold them (if you are doing things around the house) you can put them in a sling instead. Putting your baby in a front carrier will help them feel cosy against your chest — just make sure their carrier offers good head and neck support, and that their airways are clear to breathe easily.

These are really easy techniques to implement into your daily routine. Not only will you and your baby benefit by spending quality time together, but it will be extremely beneficial for mum too, to have some precious moments to herself.

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.

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Supporting spontaneous labour

Whenever you research how long a pregnancy lasts, you will commonly hear the following:

– just over nine months

– approximately 280 days

– 37-42 weeks

So as you can see, the range is quite vast and wooly. So think about it…if you’re pregnant, the chances are your medical caregivers have given you an exact date as to when they think your baby will be born. Wow, they’ve managed to pinpoint it to on single 24 hour period…amazing!

No, it’s not.

By you being given one single day to pin your hopes on baby arriving can have a multitude of knock-on effects. It puts pressure on you as a mum, as you wait for the signs of labour to show; you will no doubt have friends and family checking in on you and you’ll also have your medical caregivers suggest a ‘date for induction’, even before you’ve crossed the 40-week mark.

The NICE guidelines state that inductions for pregnancy should only be done if there is a medical reason. Being ‘overdue’ is not a medical reason on its own.

Take a look online and you’ll read of many 10-month mamas. Women who have confidently chosen to let nature take its course and go spontaneously into labour. There is even one woman who’s pregnancy lasted 375 days* (yes that’s longer than 12 months).

So what I want to convey is, pinning your expectations on a single day is perhaps not the right thing to do. According to research, only about one in 25 (four per cent) of babies are born on their exact due date . About one in five babies are born at 41 weeks or after. So rest assured, this is totally normal.

You’ve done a fabulous job growing your baby and trusting in nature. Now let your body decide when to give birth.

*this was the number of days from menstrual cycle to birth.

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.

September Hypnobirthing Weekend Course – spaces available

It’s not too late to join Magical Baby Moments‘ weekend hypnobirthing classes on 10/11 September.

Learn techniques to help you prepare for a positive, calm and informed labour and birth. 
Understand that there are choices that you can make – you can influence you and your baby’s birth path.

Have a fully engaged birth partner who can fully support you.

Go to www.magicalbabymoments.com/classes to find out more what the course content includes.