Vaginal Birth Reduces Allergies

One of the benefits of vaginal birth is the gift of Mom's beneficial bacteria to the baby.

One of the benefits of vaginal birth is the gift of Mom’s beneficial bacteria to the baby. Normally, these quickly take up residence in the newborn’s gut. Cesarean sections can be life-saving interventions, but the sterile environment they require can change or delay beneficial bacteria making their home in the baby’s intestinal tract.

Perhaps this is the reason that cesarean section delivery increases the risk of food allergy by 106 percent and the risk of infant diarrhea by 46 percent compared to vaginal birth, according to a study published in the November Archives of Diseases in Childhood. This fascinating study followed 865 healthy, term, breastfed babies to look for changes in allergies and gastrointestinal illnesses after cesarean deliveries. Despite the food allergy and diarrhea evidence, there was some good news for families who had cesarean sections — this study found no increase in colic, crying, or eczema following cesarean delivery.

Still, this study supports a growing body of evidence that beneficial bacteria play an important role in the developing immune system. Other studies suggest that breastfeeding mothers can help their babies, however they are delivered, by eating foods such as yogurt that contain beneficial bacteria or by taking probiotic supplements themselves.

Published on: October 27, 2004
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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