Breech births occur in approximately 1 in 25 full-term births, but this statistic is drastically skewed due to the number of mothers who opt for an elective c-section between gestational weeks 37-40 due to their baby’s position.
As a family chiropractor, I see many mothers throughout their pregnancies. I cannot begin to count to number of women who begin to worry about a baby who is sitting in a breech position. The first thing that I remind them is that there is still time! Until labor actually begins, and even throughout early labor, there is time for a baby to change positions. However, I completely understand the state of panic as the weeks fly by and a baby remains in a less than ideal position.
I will cover all of the ins and outs of the Webster Technique and how chiropractors can aid in helping a pregnancy be as uneventful as possible in another post, but today I want to break down breech positioning and the options you have as the mother.
To begin, there are several positions in which a fetus can become situated in utero; the most common being head down in an either left or right occipital anterior position. This means that the baby’s back is facing the mother’s abdomen (complete OA position) or is turned slightly with the back facing the left or right side of the mother and the head looking the other direction. These are commonly referred to as LOA and ROA positions (Left or Right OA). While these are the most common and easiest to birth positions, there are several other options a baby may choose.
A transverse, or side-lying baby is the only position in which is truly unsafe to birth. It can possibly be fatal for both baby and mother; however, a c-section does not need to be scheduled, as a baby can turn once labor begins. When the body begins labor, different hormones are released and both mother and baby work together. This can encourage the baby to turn head down. If baby’s position does not turn as the labor progresses, a c-section will be needed.
A breech baby, one who is sitting upright, presents a whole new level of challenges. There are three breech positions:
• Frank (or extended) breech—legs are straight and feet are up near the baby’s head.
• Complete (or flexed) breech—knees are bent, but feet are above the baby’s bottom.
• Footling breech—feet are below the baby’s bottom.
Most medical birth teams will start discussing the scheduling of a c-section after 36 weeks gestation. Typically, it is recommended to have the surgery between 38-40 weeks gestation, but it seems that most doctors choose never to discuss the most natural option: let labor occur naturally. It wasn’t but a few decades ago that all doctors (and midwives) delivered breech babies. It is known as a ‘hands-off’ delivery, meaning the birth team does not assist the baby as it is born. Pulling, tugging, or rotating a breech baby as it is born can cause severe problems, complications, or even end in death. Due to these risks, most doctors today have never even witnessed a breech birth, therefore will not perform one. It is a sad turn of events, as the risk is so little, and is truly only an increased risk when the birth is interfered with.
Breech presentation can be the effect of a pregnancy with multiple fetuses, placenta previa, amniotic fluid levels in abnormal range, abnormal pelvic conditions, or just a stubborn baby. It can be easy to learn that your baby is in this position, as kicks are felt in the lower abdomen. An ultrasound will also tell you more exact information.
If you are faced with a breech pregnancy and would like to help baby find a better position, there are several things you can do:
Practice Good Posture: Poor posture can encourage poor fetal positioning.
Exercises from www.SpinningBabies.com
Chiropractic Adjustments: The Webster Technique has a high success rate with encouraging babies to find a more ideal birthing position.
Therapeutic Massage: Muscles and tendons control more than one would expect. By using pressure points and massage, the body can be triggered to relax and allow the baby to move easier.
External Version: This manipulation is not recommended until after 34 weeks gestation, but most doctors will not perform the technique until 38 weeks, as they want baby’s lungs developed prior to trying to manually ‘flip’ the baby. This technique does not come without risks, as it can cause the placenta to be torn from the uterine wall, bleeding to occur, and immediate delivery of the baby. While rare, these are possible outcomes and make sure you discuss them with your birthing team.
Of course, there is always the option of having a vaginal breech birth. Finding a doctor who will perform this delivery may not be easy, but it is not impossible. Several midwives will attend breech deliveries, and it is your right to birth your baby as you please. A hospital may have you sign a waiver that you are going against medical recommendations, but it is your birth. You need to feel comfortable with your birth team and confident in your decisions, no matter what you choose.
The articles are circulating all over social media about Nestle, one of the world’s largest food companies, patenting the rights to a new vegan infant formula. There are articles cheering the company on and singing their praises, and there are articles throwing flames. What side is the right side?
Before I explain their newest product, there needs to be background information given.
Nestle has been (rightly) boycotted by many for a long time now. They make billions of dollars selling water that they bottle for next to nothing, and they continued to bottle their water throughout the extreme drought conditions of California.
Nestle was found to be purchasing its chocolate from farms breaking child slavery laws. In the annual $100 billion chocolate business, Nestle wins consumers with lower prices. These prices are attainable due to the cocoa plantations the company shops at. While they do not own their own plantations, they have plenty of say over the conditions in which their products are chosen from. Supporting plantations that break child labor laws is unethical.
There are more unethical battles that Nestle continues to be involved with, including using suppliers known for clear-cutting for the purpose of palm oil harvesting without permits or government oversight. Palm oil is highly controversial due to issues like rainforest clear-cutting and habitat destruction for multiple animals.
The company continually loses lawsuits, but being the empire that it is, little effects have been felt.
After reading this, learning that Nestle uses its power to potentially harm (or kill) infants in order to become richer may not shock you.
You think I’m being extreme? Well, I wish that were the case. Since the 1970’s, Nestle has entered into poverty stricken countries and brainwashed new mothers into believing that they need formula over breastmilk. They give out just enough samples to last until a mother’s milk production is affected. At this point, the mothers are forced to buy the expensive formula. This is often not possible, meaning babies become malnourished, breastmilk supply is completely lost, and in many cases, infants die.
Let me pause… The issue of infant formula is not on the chopping block here. Everyone knows that breastmilk is the healthiest option, but high-quality formula options are needed to be available. However, using marketing and false information to ruin a healthy and nourishing relationship, possibly leaving a mother to watch her child die of malnourishment, is on the chopping block.
This leads me to the topic at hand:
Nestle’s Vegan Infant Formula
Infants’ guts are extremely impressionable, and they can lead to a lifetime of problems if exposed to toxins or inflammatory, disruptive ingredients. Most formulas are over-processed and filled with ingredients harmful to the gut. It can be hard to choose a formula for your baby if breastfeeding does not work out. The choices are overwhelming.
Infants have a hard time digesting dairy. Even if there is not a true allergy, dairy can cause skin issues, colic, pain, and other ailments. Are you surprised to know that it is found in most formulas on the market? When you start reading labels and realize that finding a non-dairy infant formula means that your baby will then be consuming soy or rice (along with wheat and other fillers). Neither of these are the healthiest of options.
Nestle states that it’s new vegan infant formula will be made from potato protein microparticles and will be hypoallergenic, minimally processed and cost-effective to produce. If released, this will be the first vegan infant formula that is easily available in the United States and Canada. This will allow vegan, non-breastfeeding mothers an easy formula to purchase, along with non-breastfeeding or supplementing mothers whose infants have dairy allergies/sensitivities.
So, the question is: Do you support Nestle creating a vegan infant formula?
New mothers often walk in to my practice after giving birth to be adjusted. Pregnancy can do a number on the body, and proper care can aid and speed the healing process once baby arrives. I generally see mothers enter with a heavy infant car seat in one arm and strain across their face. Those car seats are not light, and they only get heavier as baby grows. I love introducing mothers to babywearing and the benefits it can provide for a family. There’s an entire babywearing world out there that can free you from the lugging of a car seat, keep your hands free, and increase your bonding time with baby.
From a chiropractic standpoint, I want to stress the importance of choosing a carrier with an ergonomic design. Not all baby carriers are created equal, in all actuality, the most common carriers have come to be known as ‘crotch-danglers’ because they put significant pressure on the pubic bones, forcing the legs to dangle. These carriers also cause excess stress to the wearer’s back and shoulders, making babywearing uncomfortable. I highly recommend joining a babywearing international group in your area and borrowing multiple carriers before purchasing; however, you cannot go wrong with any of the recommendations from the group.
Choosing to babywear provides the following:
Transition to the World
Babywearing mimics the movements the baby felt in utero. It is a safe and comfortable place for the baby to be. There is little to no overstimulation due to being worn on the chest and close to the heartbeat.
Bonding Opportunity for the Family
While keeping baby skin-to-skin, or close to Mom’s heartbeat has many benefits, babywearing also gives family members a chance to bond with the baby. Babies learn voices, smells, movements, and faces by being worn.
Babywearing helps keep baby happy while also providing two free hands to continue daily tasks.
Environmental experiences stimulate nerves to branch out and connect with other nerves, which helps the brain grow and develop. Babywearing helps the baby’s developing brain make the right connections. The baby is closely involved in the mother and father’s world and is exposed to, and participates in, the environmental stimuli that mother selects and is protected from those stimuli that bombard or overload her developing nervous system. She so intimately participates in what mother is doing that her developing brain stores a myriad of experiences, called patterns of behavior. Babywearing also enhances speech development; baby is up at voice and eye level, and he is more involved in conversations. This all adds up to brighter, more alert, more intelligent children.
According to Babywearing International:
It is very important to understand basic babywearing safety before ever putting on a carrier. As with any baby product, baby carriers can pose potential safety hazards if they are not used carefully and correctly.
Make sure your child’s airway remains open at all times while babywearing. The best way to do this is to keep him or her in an upright position, high enough on your body to monitor breathing and ensure that her chin is off her chest. Babywearing International recommends that infants only be held in a horizontal or cradle position while actively nursing (if desired) and return to an upright or vertical position as soon as they have finished.
It is also important that your carrier provide adequate support for your infant’s developing neck and back. Ideally baby should be held with his knees higher than his bottom with legs in a spread squat position and support from knee to knee although with older babies and toddlers full knee to knee support is not always possible or necessary. An ergonomic carrier (whether a soft structured carrier, Asian-style carrier, sling, or wrap) will provide better support for baby and will be more comfortable for the caregiver as well.
Always inspect your carrier for wear or damage before use examining it for weak spots, loose stitching, worn fabrics, etc. BWI recommends purchasing a carrier from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that it meets all current US safety, testing, and labeling standards.
Practice all carries—especially back carries–with a spotter, over a bed or couch, or low to the ground until you are completely confident. A BWI meeting is the perfect place to learn new skills with the assistance of a Volunteer Babywearing Educator. In most cases it is best to be comfortable with front carries before attempting back carries.
Always exercise common sense while babywearing. Baby carriers are not an approved child restraint or floatation device and should not be used in moving vehicles or boats. Avoid babywearing in situations where it would not be safe to carry an infant in your arms.
As chiropractic care is becoming a more well-known and utilized form of preventative care, it is also drawing in many women throughout their pregnancies. Pregnancy is a time of much discomfort, as the body is changing and causing misalignment and pain for the mother. This is when the term “Webster Technique” begins being tossed around.
Over 30 years ago, Larry Webster DC developed the Webster Technique; he also founded the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) to oversee, promote, and ensure the proper chiropractic care of children, pregnant women, and families as wholes. His technique has become known in today’s society as one of the go-to methods of helping a fetus find the best position in utero. The truth is that the Webster Technique addresses sacral subluxation through sacral analysis, diversified adjustment and related soft tissue release. It was found that many women claimed their unborn children turned into a more ideal birthing position after receiving treatment. This intrigued minds and caused a large amount of talk in the research community.
Due to these observations of breech fetal pregnancies reporting ‘correction of fetal position to vertex following the use of the Webster Technique, the technique was described in its early days as a “breech turning technique” by both patients and chiropractors.’ Since this time though, it has been learned that being called a ‘turning technique’ implies the treatment of a condition, or the intentional focus of care on an unborn malpositioned baby rather than focusing on the correction of sacral subluxation. The name was officially changed to ‘The Webster Technique.’
According to the ICPA, “The Webster technique is a specific chiropractic analysis and diversified adjustment. The goal of the adjustment is to reduce the effects of subluxation and/or SI joint dysfunction. In so doing neuro-biomechanical function in the sacral/pelvic region is improved.
The ICPA recognizes that in a theoretical and clinical framework of the Webster Technique in the care of pregnant women, sacral subluxation may contribute to difficult labor for the mother (i.e., dystocia). Dystocia is caused by inadequate uterine function, pelvic contraction, and baby malpresentation. The correction of sacral subluxation may have a positive effect on all of these causes of dystocia.
In this clinical and theoretical framework, it is proposed that sacral misalignment may contribute to these three primary causes of dystocia via uterine nerve interference, pelvic misalignment and the tightening and torsion of specific pelvic muscles and ligaments. The resulting tense muscles and ligaments and their aberrant effect on the uterus may prevent the baby from comfortably assuming the best possible position for birth.”
NOTE: Not all chiropractors are certified in this technique, and I cannot stress the importance of finding one who has completed the ICPA 180-hour certification program to ensure proper utilization.
Throughout pregnancy, the body adapts to the increase of hormones, weight gain and postural adaptations. These changes increase the risk of sacral subluxation and neuro-biomechanical imbalance. The sacrum, the pelvis and the elaborate network of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves attached and intertwined within this area are all under constant pressure and change during pregnancy. The pelvis and sacrum typically move as one, but as one side (the ilium) is ’rocked’ back and misaligned, it causes the other side to ‘rock’ forward. As you can envision, the pelvis is then tilted. This tilt is linked to:
- Pain the legs
- Tightness in the legs
- Narrowed birth canal
- Severe lower back pain
- Long and painful labor leading to unwanted interventions
This improperly aligned pelvis can also encourage a baby to settle into the breech position late in pregnancy. Because of these risks, it is important that a chiropractor assess the mother throughout pregnancy and adjust accordingly to aid the body as it changes, which also allows the baby to naturally find its most comfortable and best position to grow and be born from.
A properly aligned pelvis and sacrum help the muscles stay loose, allowing the nerves within the pelvic area to send important messages from the nervous system to their proper destinations without interference. The Webster technique does just this; it balances the pelvis properly while reducing stresses to the ligaments that support the uterus.
I have many mothers join my practice during pregnancy with the thought that it won’t be needed once baby arrives. I have several others who call for their first appointment shortly after birth begging for relief of new found pains and problems. It doesn’t take either mother long to understand just how valuable chiropractic care is as a standard of care in a healthy lifestyle.
I have shared much information about care throughout pregnancy here on the blog and within my book, but I feel as though the topic of postpartum chiropractic care is an extremely important topic within itself. I am not just talking about the week after having your new baby, which of course is highly needed, but also the months – and even years for some – after having children.
After giving birth, you may not consider one of your first outings should be to the chiropractor, but once you think about the journey you have accomplished, you may think again. That first visit after birth is wonderful for both mother and baby. Your baby has just experienced quite the ride – no matter how she entered this world. Her positioning within your uterus may or may not have been ideal, the birth process is strenuous, and the world can be a hard place to adjust to. A great family chiropractor is exactly what she needs! I’ll save those details for a future blog, but know that a newborn definitely can and should be seen after birth.
Today, though, I want to talk about YOU… the mother.
As you may (or may not) have realized, your body has changed significantly throughout birth:
- Ligaments have loosened
- Bones have spread
- Nerves have been pinched
- Back Pain has persisted
- Weight has shifted
- Posture has changed
- Balance is different
- Hormonal tides have caused chronic complaints
After giving birth, some of these problems disappear while most linger and new ones arise. The body immediately begins working to tighten the ligaments and realign organs and bones, but it is a process. This can take months, even up to a year to completely occur. And while this is happening, you are altering your body by holding a baby, leaning to breastfeed, survive in a state of exhaustion. To put it mildly, your body is not in its peak performance state.
Seeing a chiropractor immediately after birth grants you the ability to jump start your body’s healing process. Chiropractic care ensures proper blood flow to these tightening ligaments, aligns the spine to allow proper neuron reception and movement, and can alleviate aches and pains.
There are, of course, the most common areas needing adjustment after birth; the pubic bone, sacrum, and lower back. While pregnancy can alter these areas, birth significantly throws them out of place. A good adjustment will ease the body into motherhood with far less pain than a mother who does not get adjusted. Continual chiropractic care throughout the postpartum period speeds the recovery time as a whole, too.
Postpartum chiropractic care can also be responsible for the following:
- Correcting Posture
- Speeding Pelvic Floor Recovery
- Alleviating Sciatica and Nerve Pain
- Aiding in the Prevention of Postpartum Depression
- Relieving ‘New Mother Wrist’ Pain
- Subsiding Headaches
- Providing Comfort for Better Sleep
If you are planning to have more children, it is even more important to help heal your body properly. Future pregnancies deserve a strong foundation and healthy start.
It can be so intimidating that most women forego writing one altogether.
Don’t let that be you. Skipping your birth plan means that you are skipping the educational aspect of giving birth. You are walking in blind – uniformed – and unprepared for the possibilities that lie ahead.
You may have the birth of your dreams without a birth plan in hand, but if just one domino falls, your birth has the chance of not being what you were hoping for. How does a birth plan change any of that, you ask?
Like most things in life, it isn’t so much about the end result, but the journey to get there. Your birth plan is a culmination of your research; a brief proposal of what you would like, how things should be handled, and how you deserve to be treated.
Before writing your birth plan, tour your birthing facility and schedule a time to talk with your doctor (or practice of doctors), or midwife. You cannot begin this until all of your questions are answered. You need to know what the standard of care is from the moment you enter the facility until the second you are wheeled out. (Are you allowed to walk out? -simple questions like that need to be asked too!)
Once you have a basic timeline of events, you can dig into the research and figure out your priorities. I have yet to ever see two identical birth plans.
Make sure to bring your birth team a copy of your plan after it is written. Pack a few copies in your birth bag and have your partner pull them out upon arrival when you are in labor. Everyone can receive a copy – the doctor, all nurses, anyone who enters the room can be asked to take 2 minutes to ‘Please review my partner’s birth wishes. We would really like to be team through this, and I want her priorities to be known. Thank you!’
Now it’s time to write.
The easier the plan is to read, the higher the chances are that it will be read. There are three basic formats to choose from:
Bullet Points: Simple, brief statements listed under different headings (example: Early Labor, Active Labor, 2nd Stage, 3rd Stage, After Delivery for Mom and Baby)
Chart: Each procedure listed with the mother’s thoughts or wishes next to it, in charted form.
Paragraphs: Harder and longer to read, paragraph format is typically done under headings like bullet points, but contains longer thoughts.
*Remember not to include WHY you are choosing these things, that does not matter. Keep is SIMPLE and include everything important to you.
A birth plan is not written in stone. No matter what though, YOU SHOULD NEVER BE PUSHED OR TALKED INTO ANYTHING. If situations arise, take the time to talk about your options, risks, and make informed decisions.
This is a sample birth plan. Yours will be your own, but feel free to start here and add/delete and alter as you see fit. It is based on a plan for a natural hospital birth without medical intervention. Remember, you may not agree with my plan, but that’s the beauty of it – you get to make your own!
SAMPLE BIRTH PLAN
I would like to have an unmedicated, peaceful birth with the help and support of you as my birth team. My partner and I are educated and understand that unexpected situations may arise. If anything occurs, please help us to continue on the most natural path as possible, granting us time to make decisions and supporting us through the process.
In case of emergency, save both mother and baby in any way possible.
*There will be a photographer with us, and she is allowed to stay with us in all situations.
- I would like to let labor begin naturally, even past my due date, and do not want any interventions to begin labor.
- If water breaks before labor begins, I would like 48-72 hours before any interventions are suggested. I agree to have my fluid levels monitored.
- If I arrive before active labor has begun, I would like to leave and come back further into labor – even if my water has broken.
- I deny antibiotics for GBS and will watch for fever and signs of illness after birth.
- I would prefer no heparin lock be put in place, but will compromise if an IV will not be attached.
- DO NOT OFFER PAIN MANAGEMENT MEDICATIONS.
- My partner will remain with me and be included in all discussions.
- I would like a peaceful, calm, and intimate environment with minimal interruption.
- I would like to move freely and labor in any position comfortable.
- I will eat and drink throughout labor.
- I would like access to the birthing tub (if available).
- No cervical checks unless requested.
- No artificial rupturing of membranes (water breaks naturally or baby is born in the caul).
- I would like baby’s heartbeat to be monitored intermittently through Doppler or stethoscope. No electronic fetal monitoring, internal monitoring, or wireless monitoring. If continuous monitoring is needed, wireless monitoring will be permitted so I can still walk freely.
- As long as my baby and I are fine, I would like to be free of time limits and not have my labor augmented.
2nd Stage Labor:
- No episiotomy unless I am naturally tearing toward my clitoris.
- No vacuum or forceps. Instead a change of position.
- I will wait until my body naturally begins pushing before I push.
- Please do not instruct my pushing, I will listen and aid my body, taking breaks when needed.
- I do not want to be laying on my back to push.
- I would like access to the squatting bar and birth stool.
- I would like to ‘catch’ my baby, or have my partner catch the baby.
- My partner will announce the baby’s gender.
- Baby will immediately be placed skin to skin on my chest.
- We will let the umbilical cord pulse to completion before clamping.
3rd Stage Labor:
- No medical interventions to birth the placenta.
- I wish to see the placenta.
- Placenta will be kept in the provided cooler to be encapsulated.
- A c-section will only be performed once all options have been exhausted and it is a medical emergency.
- My partner will remain with me throughout the procedure.
- I would like to have feeling and the ability to move my arms. (Avoiding general anesthetic.)
- I would like a family-centered c-section with a clear curtain, mirror, and inclusion in the birth conversation.
- Baby will be placed directly on my chest with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached to the baby.
- Take extreme care with incision and sutures to support a future VBAC and more pregnancies.
- My partner or child will cut the cord after it has finished pulsing.
- No separation from baby. Hold off on any newborn checks. Anything needed can be done with baby on my chest.
- In an emergency, my partner will accompany the baby everywhere needed.
- Breastfeeding will be attempted before any weighing or measuring takes place.
- All procedures will be held off until initial bonding has been established.
- Vernix will be rubbed into the baby’s skin, please do not wash it off.
- I decline the Vitamin K injection and antibiotic eye ointment.
- NO VACCINES: I decline the hepB vaccine and any other vaccines or injections offered.
- DO NOT CIRCUMSIZE if baby is a boy (or a girl).
- Do not bathe baby.
- No formula.
- No Bottles.
- No pacifiers.
- I would like a lactation consultant to be available as soon after delivery as possible.
C-sections occur in more than 1/3rd of births in the US now. It is more than just a trend, and seems to only be rising.
Research shows us that babies born by cesarean have increased chances of obesity, asthma, celiac disease, autism, chronic illnesses, and type 1 diabetes later in their lives. This research suggests that it is the differences in the gut flora that plays a part in the rise in these diseases.
Allowing the body to labor on its own, without intervention, provides many benefits for posi both mom and baby, but allowing baby to pass through the birth canal takes the cake, folks. Apparently, our bodies are so amazing that we not only grow humans, but our own gut flora is passed to those humans as they grow (through the placenta).
It gets even better! Our gut flora travels from our gut into the birth canal during labor. These bacteria then are absorbed through baby’s skin, eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals as he passes through the birth canal and is welcomed to the world.
By having these bacteria absorbed into their bodies, babies have a decreased risk of the above mentioned illnesses, as well as many more.
I know that 1 (or 2) out of every 3 of pregnant women reading this will end up electing or requiring a c-section for birth, but YOU are who I am writing this for. Science has found a way for you to grace your baby with your ‘seed.’
If you are HIV negative, and having a C-Section, I highly recommend you read on. If you are GBS positive, talk to your doctor about vaginal seeding.
What is Seeding?
Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, an associate professor in the Human Microbiome Program at the NYU School of Medicine, presented the process to do what is called an inoculum or “seeding” for the infant.
- Take a piece of gauze soaked in sterile normal saline
- Fold it up like a tampon with lots of surface area and insert into the mother’s vagina
- Leave for 1 hour, remove just prior to surgery and keep in a sterile container
- Immediately after birth apply the swab to the baby’s mouth, face, then the rest of the body
Yes, it is recommended to take vaginal swabs from the mother and putting them over the body and in the mouth of the baby to help restore the delicate balance for babies who were born by cesarean. This new research was recently shared at a conference of the American Society for Microbiology by a group of other physicians. It is now being practiced across the country by doctors who are up to date on their research.
Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section Birth
“Vaginal birth triggers the expression of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) in mice, which is important for improving brain development and function in adulthood. The expression of this protein was impaired in mice born via caesarean section. The communication between our guts and brains appears to rely, in part, on the vagus nerve, and is bidirectional in nature as reported in this 12-year prospective study that looked at relationships between gut problems like irritable bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.”
There is a large difference between the microbiome of a baby born vaginally compared to a baby born by c-section. During a vaginal birth the baby is seeded by the mother’s vaginal and faecal bacteria, as well as bacteria from her gut. A baby born by c-section is seeded by the bacteria in the hospital environment and his mother’s skin. These bacteria are incredibly different, and these differences may be the reason for the long-term increased risk of some diseases for babies born by c-section.
With interventions like Pitocin, antibiotics, C-section and formula feeding, the gut flora transfer from the mother to baby is interfered with or missed completely, leaving the baby’s microbiome “incomplete”. This means that the baby’s immune system may never develop to its full potential.
Most Beneficial Bacteria
The most beneficial gut flora are found in babies who are born at full term (39 weeks or further), vaginally (unmedicated) at home, and are breastfed exclusively. This is because these babies come in contact with ONLY the bacteria of their family during the prime ‘seeding’ the period.
The following are ways you can increase the chances of positively seeding your baby:
- Have a vaginal birth at home.
- Avoid vaginal contact: cervical checks, etc.
- 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, follow the procedure of vaginal swabs to ‘seed’ the babies. The preliminary results are that the microbiome of swabbed babies are more similar to vaginally born babies.
How to Help After Birth
After birth, the baby continues to receive gut flora through contact with the environment and breastfeeding. The differences in the gut of breastfed babies compared to formula fed babies is immense. The beneficial bacteria are transported to the baby’s gut by breastmilk. The gut health of a formula fed baby plays into the health risks and chronic illnesses linked to formula. http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/5/385 and http://www.livescience.com/26312-gut-bacteria-infant-colic.html
Ways to help increase positive gut flora:
- Skin-to-Skin: Immediately following birth, and in the first days, baby should spend a lot of time naked on his/her mother’s chest skin-to-skin.
- Avoid bathing baby for at least 24 hours after birth, and then only use plain water for at least 4 weeks. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2315785/
- Minimize the handling of baby by non-family members during the first weeks.
- Exclusively breastfeed.
- Avoid giving baby unnecessary antibiotics. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v35/n4/full/ijo201127a.html
- Probiotics may also be beneficial for babies suffering from colic.
The commonly accepted belief that the baby inside the uterus is sterile, while the membranes are still intact, is being challenged recently. Research shows that the gut bacteria from the mother may be able to reach the baby (Through the placenta via the blood stream). Why is this a concern? Our modern lifestyle is not very microbiome friendly, and many of us have dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut bacteria). Dysbiosis and too much of the ‘wrong’ bacteria have been linked to premature rupture of membranes and premature birth, not to mention the links of gut health to chronic illnesses.
Gut health contributes to proper immune function because 80% of the immune system is in the gut. The gut, which houses at least 10 times as many human cells as there are in our bodies, and 150 times as many genes as are in our genome, controls many vital operations and is responsible for synthesis of neuroactive and nutritional compounds, for immune modulation, and for inflammatory signaling. Poor gut health can predispose us to everything from autoimmune disease, allergies, asthma, skin problems like eczema and psoriasis, cognitive difficulties, depression, anxiety and metabolic problems like obesity and fatty liver.
During pregnancy, your microbiome (also known as gut flora) is not only crucial for your health, but for your baby’s health as well.
The mother’s intestinal bacteria is also found in her breastmilk and is continually passed to baby.
An unhealthy, unbalanced gut flora in the mother can cause problems such as preterm labor, and once baby is born, issues like colic, cradle cap, asthma, food sensitivities, ear infections, reflux, GERD, etc. Healing the gut when pregnant should be a high priority for the mother so the baby can have a healthy start to life.
A study obtained stool samples from women during each trimester of pregnancy and analyzed the bacteria present. They found that bacteria typically linked with good health decreased over the course of pregnancy, while bacteria associated with diseases generally increased. In addition, signs of inflammation in the gut increased. These changes in gut bacteria may play a role in changing a pregnant woman’s metabolism. Two changes that happen during pregnancy are an increase in the amount of body fat, and reduced sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar.
“The findings suggest that our bodies have coevolved with the microbiota and may actually be using them as a tool — to help alter the mother’s metabolism to support the growth of the fetus.” http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=160986
Research also shows, during pregnancy, the microbes actually become less diverse and the number of beneficial bacteria decline while disease-related bacteria increase. Under normal circumstances, such changes could lead to weight gain and inflammation, but in pregnancy, they induce metabolic changes that promote energy storage in fat tissue so the fetus can grow. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22863002
No matter how you look at the research, women’s gut bacteria changes during pregnancy. Ideally, women should try to head into pregnancy with a healthy microbiome and then maintain it, so that as the flora is altered during each trimester, it has a strong base in which it began.
If antibiotics are needed before or during pregnancy, repopulating the gut with friendly bacteria and eating a diet containing minimal toxins will help counter-act the harmful effect on the gut the antibiotics cause.
Toxicity flows from the gut throughout the body and into the brain. This continually challenges the nervous system, preventing it from performing its normal functions and processing sensory information. Virtually any toxic exposure can be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and cause a chronic illness, allergies, even symptoms of autism, and/or any number of other neurological problems.
As noted by Scientific American: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/27/seeding-baby-microbiome.aspx#_edn7
“Scientists have long wondered whether the composition of bacteria in the intestines, known as the gut microbiome, might be abnormal in people with autism and drive some of these symptoms. Now a spate of new studies supports this notion and suggests that restoring proper microbial balance could alleviate some of the disorder’s behavioral symptoms.”
In recent years, it has been discovered just how important the mother’s bacteria is for the baby throughout pregnancy and birth. The way the child enters the world sets the stage for his own gut flora. The process of “seeding” a baby at birth is when the bacteria is passed from mother to baby.
Keeping healthy levels of bacteria throughout pregnancy, seeding your baby’s microbiome, and optimizing your vitamin D level (make sure you have this checked while pregnant) will provide a strong foundation for creating a strong and healthy gut in your baby. However, the hazards of chemical exposures during pregnancy to endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates, and pesticides from the environment and foods can have wide-ranging and long-term health effects.
While you may not be able to avoid all toxic exposures, it’s important to take whatever proactive measures you can to reduce your toxic burden, especially before and during pregnancy. For example, avoiding any and all unnecessary drugs and vaccinations is one aspect you have a large degree of control over. Below are several more.
It is not the time for a full on detox, but you should remove as many toxins from your diet and environment as you can. Use non-toxic cleaners and eat a whole foods diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics, with as much organic as possible. This helps the body to detoxify at a rate that supports your ability to get pregnant while creating a healthy environment for your little one.
- As much as you’re able, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic foods to reduce your exposure to agricultural chemicals like glyphosate. Steer clear of processed, prepackaged foods of all kinds. This way you automatically avoid pesticides, artificial food additives, dangerous artificial sweeteners, food coloring, MSG, and unlabeled genetically engineered ingredients.
- Maintain optimal gut flora by eating raw food grown in healthy, organic soil and ‘reseeding’ your gut with fermented foods. (This is absolutely essential when you’re taking an antibiotic). If you aren’t eating fermented foods, you most likely need to supplement with a probiotic on a regular basis, especially if you’re eating processed foods.
- Optimize your vitamin D level.
- Exercise regularly throughout your pregnancy. Previous studies have shown that, in general, women who exercise throughout their pregnancies have larger placentas than their more sedentary peers. The volume of your placenta is a general marker of its ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your fetus, so it stands to reason that having a large, healthy placenta will lead to a healthier baby.
- Once your baby is born, try to breast feed for as long as you’re able—ideally at least six months. Breastfeeding helps ensure that your child’s gut flora develops properly right from the start, as breast milk is loaded both with beneficial bacteria and nutrient growth factors that will support their continued growth.
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap and canned foods (which are often lined with BPA-containing liners).
- Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances, as they often contain phthalates, which have been linked to reductions in IQ and other chronic health problems.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
- When redoing your home, look for “green,” toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric, or install a glass shower door. Most all flexible plastics, like shower curtains, contain dangerous plasticizers like phthalates.
- Avoid spraying pesticides around your home or insect repellants that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.
- Minimize stress. Stress messes with your gut microbiota.
- Avoid antimicrobial skin products (eg. handsoaps), and house cleaning products
- Avoid unnecessary medications
- Stop smoking