When we are expecting our first child, sometimes we are a little confused about what we really want. We create a birth plan which then remains in the drawer, we prepare for a natural birth and we end up with a C-section, we want to breastfeed on demand and even breastfeeding is more difficult than expected, we program the skin-to-skin contact and instead, doctors take away the baby, and we almost do not see it, because they have to wash him, take measurements, dress, etc…
How can you feel then? You feel that you have completely failed!
Isn’t it? For me it was a little like that, but I realized it only later on.
At first I was too busy organizing my new life to realize what had happened. I was told that I had been “very good”. Actually I didn’t feel like that, because delivery had not gone as I wanted, even though I had not had a caesarean.
When I had my second baby, all (or a lot) was clearer. This second time, things went completely differently because I had a little more knowledge and experience and because I found the right support at the birth center where I chose to give birth.
Through the film Microbirth a new world has opened up for me! I decided to help fund this documentary because my gut feeling suggested this was valuable. And in fact, it was!
The film presents important information that every expectant woman, doctor, educator or birth assistant should know. The movie highlights the current research on the importance of developing a healthy microbiome at birth to prevent autoimmune diseases in adulthood; Our immune system, even in adult life, is influenced by the quality of the microbiome at birth.
There are three basic steps to a healthy microbiome:
- The birth through the vaginal canal
- The skin-to-skin
Although neonatal formation of the bacteria begins within the placenta, one of the most important factors is the vaginal birth, from which the infant receives bacterial inprinting from the mother. Without this step, for example through a cesarean section, the baby is missing a large part of the bacteria and this gap could be filled by unfamiliar and unfriendly bacteria with unpredictable consequences. An imbalance in the intestinal microbiome has been linked to an ever growing list of pathologies: allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, bowel disorders, some cancers and seemingly also Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism.
Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor at New York University, has been studying and researching the use of a swab (“swab-seeding”) to be used in case of caesarean. This involves taking a swab from the vagina of the mother before Caesarean section and then pass on the face of the baby once the baby is born. This is definitely an idea to put in your birth plan, just in case. The idea of the swab-seeding is actually not so new. In February 2015 I attended a seminar by Michel Odent. Talking about the movie, which he knew very well since he has attended several screening in a few days, a little amused, he told us when, 20 years earlier, had been in Norway to promote this technique. He said the time was not yet ripe.
All is not lost though. It seems that the use of probiotics helps rebalance the gut microbiome and it also seems that there is a time ranging from birth to 2 or even 3 years of a child’s life, when it’s possible to improve the child’s own microbiome.
There is still much to investigate and find out, but what we have discovered so far should not be ignored but spread as much as possible: for the health of everyone, especially of our children!