C-Sections Could Be Harming Babies Microbiomes, Claims New Film

Amancay Tapia

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A new documentary film, "The Invisible Extinction", investigates the critical role our microbiome plays in our health and how overuse of antibiotics has led to the loss of 50 percent of our internal biodiversity. It also claims C-sections are harming newborn children’s microbiome based on a growing body of research.

According to the research, babies born by C-sections lack important gut bacteria found in babies born vaginally. Dr. Dominguez Bello, who features on the documentary and has done extensive work on this issue, talks about the negative impact on the baby's immune system as it can cause health complications later in life, "including a higher likelihood of chronic diseases and an increased risk of common food allergies."

When C-sections are the only option, Dr. Dominguez Bello encourages to breastfeed when possible as breastfeeding can go a long way to providing all babies —  no matter what birth method —  the ‘good bugs’ that contribute to healthy development. 

"When C-section or antibiotics are needed, we are blessed to have medicine to provide them. The single most important factor that is highly restorative is breastfeeding, in part because breastmilk selects in favor of good bacteria. We are currently studying restoring C-section babies with exposure to vaginal fluids of their mother. We have found that the microbiome is normalized, but we want to know if the procedure protects against the increased risks that C-section and antibiotics pose to the various diseases (asthma, allergies, obesity) which have in common high inflammation."

Her research shows our microbiome —  the collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses that naturally live in our intestines and stomach — plays a significant role in our overall health and is critical during our formative years as our immune system develops. 

By nature's design, "infants are born through the mom's birth canal which is full of good bacteria; these bacteria will be boosted by maternal breastmilk, and nothing else should be ingested by that baby, until the baby has developed the immune system, the brain, the motor capabilities... this is until 5.5-6 months of age."

According to the doctor, many factors can alter this delicate choreographic assembly of the baby microbiome, impairing transmission of maternal good microbes, including antibiotics and C-sections, since C-section babies are born without exposure to the birth canal, and under antibiotics. "Early life is crucial, because once the immune system is badly programmed, it will respond with excessive inflammation later in life", says Doctor Bello.

Epidemiological studies in humans indicate a strong association between antibiotics in pregnancy or in young babies, and increased risks of the "modern plagues" that include asthma, obesity, allergies, Type 1 Diabetes, and as well as ADS (attention deficit syndrome).

I asked the doctor about our overuse of antibiotics and how this could impact our microbiome, "if the MD feels it is absolutely needed, we should follow medical indications. There will be collateral costs, but sometimes the benefits surpass the costs. The challenge for science is to find the ways to restore the microbiome after the needed medical perturbations."

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