Your Gut

Caesarian-Section Births


Your first microbial colonisation depends on not only how you were born but also on other exposures like antibiotics given to the mother at the time of birth.

The current thinking is that whilst in the womb a baby inhabits a sterile environment. This hypothesis is currently under review. It seems more probable that a mother’s genetics, diet and lifestyle during her pregnancy will determine her baby’s microbial colonisation pattern. At the time of birth you acquire microbes as you move through the birth canal and may even pick up fecal bacterial strains as you emerge into the world.

What happens if you’re a Caesarian-section (C-section) baby?

Well you will probably be first inoculated by the microbes from the air in the operating room and those microbes that are on the Obstetrician’s gloves and instruments. It is also much more likely that baby will have been exposed to prophylactic antibiotics that are given to the mother. This can lead to a delay in the ‘normal’ colonisation by Bifidobacterial strains in the first hours of life. There are mixed research findings, however the suggestion is that there is an increased relative risk of allergies, asthma and obesity in C-section babies. It is plausible that these delayed negative health outcomes are related to a disruption in the establishment of a ‘normal’ microbiota early on in life. 

Why are c-section rates increasing?

We (as modern societies) do not accept the relative small risks associated with vaginal delivery birth outcomes for both mother and child as serious or as minor as they may be.  The issue is far more complex and includes emergency c-sections and elective c-sections which result in potentially different microbiota effects since emergency c-sections are predominantly conducted in the second stage of labour and the baby has had some exposure - albeit limited - to maternal microbes. A c-section saves lives and reduces complications to baby and mother. A potentially altered microbiota may need to be considered part of the procedure’s risks.

There are differing views on the age at which there is stabilisation of the microbiota (where it essentially starts to reflect an adult pattern) this is anywhere from age 1 to 3. This means that the minimisation of negative impacts to its development is important in the first 3 years of life and most critical in the first 6 months.

If you are pregnant or have recently given birth:

  • The maternal microbiota will influence the profile of the baby’s microbiota. All the more reason to maintain a diet full of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

  • Emerging research in the area of gut health suggests that a c-section (potentially because of the disruption to the development of a diverse microbiota) is associated with higher relative risks of developing allergies, asthma and obesity.

  • Try Akesi Baby Probiotic+ Powder from birth to establish or replenish a diverse gut microbiota