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Vaginal births, breastfeeding boost baby’s health

Thursday, Dec 31, 2015,15:13 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Traditional practices like vaginal births and breastfeeding may promote gut microbes in the baby which could help prevent diseases such as asthma, obesity and autism-like neurodevelopmental conditions later in life, scientists say.

Researchers reviewed importance of microorganisms that exist in the gut, suggesting perturbation of the environment during pregnancy, delivery and early infancy could impact the developing baby’s early microbiome and set the stage for health problems later in life. The term microbiome refers to the trillions of organisms we harbour, on our skin and within our respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts.

The womb is not sterile and the microbiota of the child are already developing in utero, researchers said.

This means that not only do we have to consider the microbiome of the child but also that of the mother, and the irony is that some of our modern medical practises, through their effect on these early microbiota, could have unintended consequences, interfering with normal development of children’s immune, metabolic, and neurologic systems, said Sharon Meropol from the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in US.

According to Meropol, increasing evidence supports the importance of protecting key steps in the transfer and maintenance of the normal microbiota in pregnant mothers and foetuses.

Disturbed microbiota could potentially contribute to a wide range of childhood diseases including allergies, asthma, obesity, and autism-like neurodevelopmental conditions, said Meropol, who is also Assistant Professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

But recent studies suggest that traditional practices like vaginal births, skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and breastfeeding may promote the development of the microbiome in the infant and help set the trajectory towards healthy development, Meropol said.

Vaginal delivery, kangaroo care (skin to skin contact) and breastfeeding immediately following birth, are associated with psychosocial, metabolic and immunologic benefits for full-term and premature infants, researchers said.

Compelling evidence has continued to mount that these practices are beneficial for intergenerational transfer of the microbiome from mother to infant, they said.

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