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The health benefits of a natural birth for newborn babies is starting to become more apparent, as new research reveals that Caesarean born babies are at higher risk of developing allergies in later life.
A natural vaginal birth exposes babies to the probiotic bacteria of the birth canal, which plays an important role in the development of the immune system and gut microbiota. Maureen Jenkins, from the charity Allergy U.K, explains:
“During a natural birth the baby travels slowly down the birth canal where it ingests normal bacteria, which has been shown to aid a healthy immune response and protect against allergy.”
The new study, carried out by a research team at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, U.S.A, observed a total of 1,258 newborn babies and assessed their health at one month, six months, one year and two years of age.
The research team began by analysing umbilical cord and stool samples from each newborn, blood samples from both parents, the mother’s breast milk, as well as levels of dust at the families’ homes.
The research team also took into account any family history of allergy, the keeping of household pets, tobacco smoke exposure, baby illnesses, and the use of medication.
The results of the study revealed that children born via C-section were 5 times more likely to become allergic to household triggers such as dust mite droppings, and dander, or the dead skin shed by dogs and cats by the age of two years old.
This research lends further credence to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ which links the childhood development of allergies to an over-clean environment, or under-exposure to micro-organisms in early life. Lead researcher, Dr. Christine Cole-Johnson, commented on this point:
“This further advances the hygiene hypothesis that early childhood exposure to micro-organisms affects the immune system’s development and onset of allergies.”
This research sheds yet more light on the importance of the early development of the gut microbiota and the vital role it plays in immune functionality.