C-Section Babies Are Crawling With Bugs

new familyThis thought is not so pleasant for the squeamish: Babies, those beautiful, sweet, amazing new people, are born coated with bacteria. But that's actually not a bad thing. The bacteria babies pick up through the birth canal can actually be good for them and help them fend off asthma and allergies as they get older.

Babies born by c-section are just as germy at birth, but they are covered with totally different types of bacteria. That may help explain why c-section babies are more susceptible to immune-related health problems.


Stanford researcher Elizabeth Costello said their research relates to the "hygiene hypothesis," aka the favorite theory of indifferent housekeepers like myself. It holds that asthma and allergies are on the rise because we're so germophobic now that kids aren't exposed to germs, so their bodies don't learn to deal with them properly.

Her research team swabbed babies' skin and mouths right after delivery, took samples of their first poop and even of their nasal mucus, and tested what sort of bacteria each contained. It doesn't draw any conclusions as to what the difference means, just that it exists. 

If something protective is found in the bacteria babies born vaginally have at birth, it could lead to the development of probiotics to encourage the "good bacteria" in babies and mothers.

I've got two c-section babies, and one's got allergies and the other has asthma. In both cases, I doubt their method of coming into the word has a lot to do with it; my daughter has sensitive skin like her dad and my son has asthma because he had a terrible cold as a newborn and now a bad cold invariably leads to us dragging out the nebulizer. He's fine otherwise. Still, I might have gone for the VBAC if I'd thought it would have made him appreciably healthier.

Does this news change your birth plans?

Image via sarahashgoodman/Flickr

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