Researchers have long believed that there are substantial differences between how a baby's immune system is triggered during vaginal birth and caesarean section. There are certain bacteria in the mother's gut that are transmitted to the baby during vaginal birth. But these bacteria don't have a chance to transfer to the baby during a c-section.
It's been theorized that this lack of bacteria transfer in a c-section may help explain why so many more babies born via caesarean suffer from chronic, immune-system linked illnesses and diseases when compared to babies born vaginally. Now, a new study has shown just how that altered microbiome may affect a baby's immune system and immune response after birth.
Scientists from the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg led the ground-breaking study on newborn microbiomes. With this study, the team has found the first bit of evidence to support the transferred bacteria theory. Basically, babies are born germ-free. But at birth, a lot of really important bacteria starts to colonize, in the gut, lungs, and on the skin. In vaginal births, this bacteria is seeded on the newborn from the mother.
But in a c-section, that transfer doesn't happen in the same way (which is why some people and doctors recommend force-seeding newborns with their mother's bacteria after a c-section). These bacterial substances have been shown to kick-start the immune system, making them vital for proper immune development. The research team found these specific bacteria in vaginally born babies, but not in babies born via c-section.
The research team believes that this may be the explanation behind why babies born via c-section are more likely to develop allergies, chronic inflammatory diseases, and metabolic diseases. Their immune systems were not triggered in the same way at birth with the bacteria transfer, so their immune systems develop differently from the very beginning.
It's such an important topic for research, so scientists and doctors can come up with a way to mimic that bacteria transfer at birth, perhaps by administering probiotics. For a lot of moms, a c-section is the only safe option, so we want to make sure that those babies are getting off on the right foot, immunologically speaking.