Microbes and Newborns: What Research Says About the Effects of Cesarean Births

The cesarian delivery method has been, without a doubt, one of the most important advancements in modern medical history.  It has allowed for the safe delivery of countless children who might otherwise have faced various risks had they been delivered vaginally. However, many scientists and doctors have pointed out a worrisome trend--roughly one in every three births in the United States is now a C-section delivery.  The ideal C-section rate among low-risk births should be closer to 15%; and with so many babies being delivered via cesarian, it’s important to understand the ramifications of such a procedure.

Risks and Benefits

Studies have suggested that C-section babies are at a higher risk of developing certain immune and metabolism disorders--including type 1 diabetes.  This means that families must weigh the risks and benefits of delivering via C-section very carefully. However, the fact remains that, for a large portion of the population, C-section births will continue being a necessity.  It is crucial, therefore, that scientists isolate the cause of these problems in order to develop a working solution.

What the research says... 

Many scientists believe that higher risks faced by C-section babies are due to the nature of the first microbes that colonize that baby’s gut and body.  Babies that are delivered vaginally are exposed to the bacteria of the mother--whereas babies delivered via C-section are first exposed to environmental bacteria. Therefore, many scientists assume that babies born via C-section lack exposure to certain microbiota that would have been critical in developing better functioning immune and metabolic systems.

Moving forward

In order to ensure optimal outcomes for the millions of babies that will continue to be delivered via c-section, researchers must identify and isolate the bacteria that allow newborns to develop without impediment and do further work to characterize the entire microbiome.  Thankfully, alongside bioinformatic leaders such as CosmosID,  scientists are approaching answers. With the right combination of technology and investment, a better future is possible for the increasing number of children who are born through cesarean delivery.