Turns out, the messier the birth (yeah, that kind of mess), the better. At least for the baby.
Recent research focusing on microbial health has found that early exposure to germs in the birth canal lays the framework for newborns' immune systems in helping distinguish between good and bad bacteria.
But what about the babies delivered via C-section. Is there a way to give them microbial benefits of the vaginal birth?
Researchers tried dabbing C-section babies with their mothers' vaginal secretions, to see if that would kick off the babies' immune system, U.S. News and World Report reported.
Bacteria in people's mouth, skin, gut and vagina are collectively called the human "microbiome." Medical researchers are beginning to understand the huge and crucial role each person's very individual microbiome plays in their health, including allergies, obesity and even depression.
A New York University medical team decided to see if they could restore some of the potentially good bacteria for babies born surgically. They incubated sterile gauze in healthy mothers' vaginas an hour before their schedule births. Within two minutes of the babies' deliveries, they swabbed the newborns' mouths and bodies with the fluid-rich gauze.
Some 18 infant-mother pairs participated in the study. Seven who were born vaginally and 11 via C-section, four of whom were exposed to vaginal fluids at birth.
Doctors then went back six times in the babies' first month and collected bacteria from the mouths, anuses and skin of both the babies and the moms. The bacteria was analyzed using DNA sequencing.
Those C-section babies who had been exposed to vaginal fluids had bacteria that was more similar to vaginally delivered infants than the C-section babies not exposed to their mother's fluids.
The study is the first step in determining whether swabbing babies born via C-section would work to develop their microbiomes. Next, researchers want to know whether this developed microbiome pays off healthwise, for example lowering the risk of eventually developing asthma and allergies.