Probiotics for Children Born by C-section By Dr. Challa
There are two possible ways a woman may give birth: naturally through the vagina or with an operation called a Caesarean section (named after the Roman emperor Julius Caesar and generally abbreviated as C-section). A C-section is usually performed when a vaginal delivery would put the baby’s or mother’s life or health at risk, albeit in recent years, it has been performed upon request for births that could otherwise have been natural.
A Caesarean section is a medical procedure by which a woman delivers her baby or babies through an incision made in the abdomen and uterus. In 2010, approximately 32 percent of all births in the United States were by C-section. While the number of births in the U.S. fell by 3 percent from 2009 to 2010, the number of women giving birth by C-section has stayed in the 31 to 32 percent range over the past couple of years.
Children are born without intestinal flora, but through the process of natural birth, the child swallows bacteria from the mother’s vaginal and fecal flora — generally Bacteroides, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. From that point on, the gut flora in the child grows over the next few weeks and starts building the immune system. This helps create a healthy gut environment from birth.
Children born by C-section, however, are not exposed to the maternal flora and have abnormal gut flora for the first few months of life. It is more difficult to grow normal bacteria within the gut if the child is not introduced to bacteria at birth. A study of C-section-delivered children found that six-month-old infants had half the amount of normal gut flora as naturally born babies. Probiotics may be the key to promoting the growth of good bacteria within a child’s gut. For now, research is still in progress on this issue.
While abnormal bacterial growth in the gut is a risk of C-section, it’s not the only issue that may arise…
Some studies have shown babies born by C-section are more likely to have asthma and perhaps allergies as well. Asthma is a chronic childhood disease and is one of the most common reasons kids miss school.
Asthma — an inflammation of the bronchial tubes in the lungs obstructing the airway — is partially due to an abnormal immune system. Probiotics help build an army of good bacteria within the gut to promote regular immune system responses, thereby decreasing the chance of asthma attacks.
Not only do probiotics overcrowd bad bacteria and strengthen good bacteria numbers, research shows pregnant women who had one first-degree relative or partner with eczema, allergies or asthma and were taking probiotics during pregnancy reduced the risk of having babies with infant eczema by 50 percent. Because infant eczema is linked to childhood asthma, the likelihood of probiotics preventing asthma is promising.
Proof of Probiotics
While research is still being conducted in the areas of pregnancy, children and probiotics, we are seeing studies that link probiotics to optimal overall health for both Mom and baby. If you are pregnant, I recommend adding a probiotic to your daily diet.
**Please Note: Always consult your physician before adding a supplement — including probiotics — to your diet.
Taking probiotics will help you boost your immune system and avoid spreading diseases to your little one. I recommend the gourmet probiotic Probulin. Use promo code “Challa” on your order to receive 25 percent off at http://www.probulin.com/.
Dr. Shekhar Challa is a board certified Gastroenterologist, Co-producer of probiotic video game Microwarriors: The Battle Within, and author of the new book Probiotics for Dummies. www.drchalla.com.