A healthy gut is an important part of our overall wellness, impacting digestion and the immune system. Because of this, scientists research factors that can affect our gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi and other microbes that line this part of our bodies. A recent study, published in the journal Nature, found that the way babies are born can impact the microbiome.
The study found that vaginal and cesarean section deliveries affect babies’ microbiome health differently. Researchers in the United Kingdom examined the microbiome of newborns and found babies who were delivered via C-section did not have strains of bacteria found in the gut of healthy children, commonly found in infants born via vaginal delivery. The babies born via C-section also carried more of the harmful bacteria found in hospitals.
Researchers also found that, as both sets of babies grew, there were fewer differences in their microbiome, although babies born via C-section did continue to harbor bacteria that could negatively impact the immune system. Researchers analyzed the microbes by collecting fecal samples from the babies at birth and up to 9 months old.
The study is part of a larger effort called the Baby Biome Study that is analyzing the microbiome health of children from birth into adulthood. The goal of the study is to see whether health conditions like asthma and obesity could be impacted by a child’s microbiome health, as previous studies have indicated associations between these conditions and the way a child is born.
Scientists say the moment of birth could be even more incredible than is already known; it could be the moment when a body’s immune system is set for life.