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Considerations For Pregnancy, Birth And Early Mothering

By Rachel Reed, PhD

The more we understand about the human microbiome, the more fundamental it seems. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding seed a child’s microbiome, and therefore have long-term effects on his or her health. More research is needed to explore how best to support healthy seeding and maintenance of the microbiome during this key period. But even with what we already know, a number of considerations and suggestions arise.

A vaginal birth in the mother’s own environment is optimal for “seeding” a healthy microbiome for the baby.

Minimize physical contact by care providers to the mother’s vagina, perineum, and the baby during birth.

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics during labor. If antibiotics are required, consider probiotics for mother and baby following birth.

If the baby is born by C-section: Research is currently being undertaken into the use of vaginal swabs to “seed” C-section babies. The preliminary results are that a swabbed baby’s microbiome is more similar to that of a vaginally born baby.

The protocol the researchers are using is:

  1. Take a piece of gauze soaked in sterile normal saline.

  2. Fold it up like a tampon with lots of surface area, and insert into the mother’s vagina. Leave for one hour.

  3. Remove swab just prior to surgery; store it in a sterile container.

  4. Immediately after birth, apply the swab to the baby’s mouth, face, and the rest of the body.

If a baby is born by C-section, it is even more important to encourage his or her mother to breastfeed and support her in those efforts. It may also be worth considering additional probiotic intake.

    Immediately following birth, and in the first days, baby should spend a lot of time naked on his or her mother’s chest.

    Avoid bathing the baby for at least 24 hours after birth, and then only use plain water for at least 4 weeks.

    If you give birth in a hospital, use your own linen from home for your baby.

    Minimize the handling of the baby by non-family members during the first weeks—particularly skin-to-skin contact. Exclusively breastfeed. If this is not possible, consider probiotic support.

    Avoid giving your baby unnecessary antibiotics. Again, if antibiotics are required, you should consider probiotics.

    Probiotics may also benefit babies suffering from colic.