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Caesarean sections prevent natural transfer of immune system-boosting bacteria

Posted January 3, 2019

Baby‘s birth is always an exciting moment, but it can also be hugely stressful. In fact, in certain cases natural birth is not even an option and parents are encouraged to choose caesarean section. It is a medical procedure that can save baby‘s and mother‘s lives in certain situation. Now scientists from the University of Luxembourg have found that caesarean section actually impacts baby’s immune system.

Natural birth allows some specific bacteria from the mother’s gut to be passed on to the baby and stimulate the baby’s immune responses. Image credit: Officer via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Scientists have found that natural vaginal birth allows some specific bacteria from the mother’s gut to be passed on to the baby and stimulate the baby’s immune system. This is sort of an initial boost that improves baby’s chances of survival in these very early stages of life. Caesarean section disturbs this process, which could be part of the reason why babies born through the caesarean section suffer more frequently from chronic, immune system-linked diseases. This quite an interesting discovery, because humans are naturally born germ-free.

Immediately after birth baby becomes colonized by various bacteria, most of which is beneficial. In fact, some of that bacteria gets transferred to the baby during the natural birth. Scientists say that they could find specific bacterial substances in vaginally born babies that were at much lower levels in babies born through a C-section.

Scientists say that this is due to the initial levels being significantly lower or because other bacteria are outnumbering these immune system boosters and push them out. Scientists say that this could be the reason why caesarean section babies suffer from various allergies, chronic inflammatory diseases and metabolic diseases more frequently.

Baby holding hand. Image credit: RitaE via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Scientists point out that it is already known that intervention into the natural birth should be as minimal as possible. And, of course, in certain cases caesarean section is unavoidable. Doctors and parents should be aware that this procedure significantly impacts baby’s immune system and certain measures could be designed to address that.

Paul Wilmes, lead author of the study, said: “It could be that the immune system of these children is set on a different path early on. We now want to further investigate this link mechanistically and find ways by which we might replace the lacking maternal bacterial strains in caesarean-born babies, e.g. by administering probiotics”.

Caesarean sections save lives and they are not going anywhere. But further studies could lead to therapies for caesarean section babies that could prevent diseases that bother them more frequently.

Source: University of Luxembourg


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