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C-Section Babies May Lack Important Bacteria

This article is more than 12 years old.

I heard a fascinating interview on NPR yesterday with a Stanford researcher who found that babies delivered via C-section don't have the same bacteria found on babies who are born vaginally, raising questions about whether the infants delivered surgically are missing out on exposure to important microbes.

The researcher, Elizabeth Costello, cautioned that her study merely detected differences — one group had the bacteria right after birth, the other didn't — and said further tests would be needed to determine whether the vaginal bacteria conferred any type of health benefit.

Still, reporter Guy Raz notes:

The findings are piquing interest in light of previous research suggesting that babies delivered via C-section may be more prone to potential health implications, such as asthma and allergies...

The researchers found that babies born via vaginal delivery are essentially coated in bacteria that babies born by C-sections skip. Costello won't speculate on whether there are benefits to being exposed to this vaginal bacteria. But, she says, "if further studies do demonstrate that there's a beneficial effect of being exposed to particular kinds of bacteria from the vagina, then one could imagine a future scenario where babies born by a C-section are exposed to a particular kind of probiotic in order to facilitate that exposure."

This program aired on June 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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