That moment when I saw a young pregnant mom in a bar drinking a beer (or two or three), long before I was a real food blogger, long before I was a mom myself, and even before I was of drinking age…I gaped in horror.
I knew nothing about prenatal nutrition, health, or growing a healthy baby, but even then, I knew enough to know that what mom does during pregnancy has a huge effect on her unborn baby, even for the rest of the child’s life.
When I did become pregnant myself, that began the journey of natural living that you find me on today, here at Kitchen Stewardship. There’s something powerfully motivating about having another life wholly dependent on you for everything.
I learned quite quickly that not only does a baby’s womb experience drastically impact her development, but also that the actual birth process can leave lifelong marks. Not adult coneheads from being squeezed though the birth canal, no, rather that a baby’s microbiome or gut flora is seeded while going through the birth canal.
That knowledge guided our birth plan and fueled my fire for a natural birth, and in fact study after study demonstrates a link between more robust and healthy gut bacteria in vaginal births vs. C-sections.
This post is sponsored by WellFuture, makers of WellBelly infant and child probiotics, and Vaccishield, a pre-vaccine nutritional boost, because they believe in spreading knowledge and helping keep me (and you) up to date on current research that holds great promise for our understanding of health!
Baby Gut Health at Birth…and Before
I think we are at a time in history where it’s generally accepted – or mostly so and becoming more mainstream all the time – that quite a few parts of the birth process itself have both short and long-term impact on the child, most notably the development of healthy gut flora (source). The microbiome, our three trillion-plus microscopic co-dependents on this earthly journey, is the subject of much scientific interest, and I can’t wait to see what we continue to discover and understand about the symbiosis of human and bacterium.
So far we’ve proven that our gut flora do far more than just assist digestion:
- comprises over 75% of our immune system, providing protection from infection
- regulates metabolism (is often a key to weight loss like these women found)
- has been linked to autoimmune disease (Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s), psychological imbalances (depression), autism, asthma and allergies
- sources: 1, 2, 3, 4
We know it’s vital to our overall health, and we know it starts early, but contrary to the previously held “blank slate” or “sterile womb” understanding of the newborn gut, new studies are showing that in fact, we get to throwback to that basic knowledge that I had in the bar at age 19:
What a mother does during pregnancy has a huge effect on her unborn child.
Numerous studies (analyzed here) have shown the likelihood of the infant gut being seeded in the womb, not at birth for the first time.
- the placenta’s own lively microbiome, including some bacteria never seen before
- bacteria directly found in intestinal tissue samples from surgery immediately after C-section births
- bacteria in newborn meconium
- cultures from previously-thought-to-be sterile amniotic fluid during pregnancy growing various good and bad bacteria
That amniotic fluid may have an impact on the term of the pregnancy itself as well as the health of the newborn’s gut, underscoring once again the vital importance of mother’s health during gestation.
How to Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria in the Womb
Studies are also showing that what a pregnant mom eats – particularly if she consumes probiotic foods like Lori showed us how to make on Monday – affect the unborn baby’s gut flora via her own gut and placenta. In face, just 14 days of a probiotic supplement improved the flora of babies born via C-section who were not inoculated with mom’s vaginal fluids.
So this is new: Mothers don’t only pass on their hair or eye color, shyness, or propensity toward chocolate. “It seems that maternal gut microbiota may be able to translocate to the baby/placenta via the blood stream (1; 2; 3; 4; 5). And the unique ecosystem of bacteria in the placenta may originate from bacteria in the mother’s mouth.” Mothers may even pass on the effects of stress to their unborn babies via bacteria (6; 7, 8).
How might the blood transfer mom’s microbiome to baby? Blood cells actually carry whole bacteria – and more of them and different types during pregnancy (9)! The bacteria are then found in infant feces, leading many to speculate that there must be a transfer in the womb. (source for above 2 paragraphs)
In other words, setting up your baby for a lifetime of better health beginning in the gut isn’t all about that perfect birth, or even getting probiotics started early.
It begins like everything else, with you. You and your placenta, that is.
WellBelly is specially formulated for tiny tummies with only the easiest-to-digest probiotics, giving little ones exactly what they need and nothing more. It’s what we give Gabriel and have since he started eating. I bet moms needing a C-section could take it for a few weeks before too, to help seed their baby’s gut better (or maybe any pregnant mom should…?).
Thanks so much to Catherine Clinton, ND, who formulated the WellFuture products, for constantly pushing me to research and learn more and share it with you!
Other Pregnancy Posts at KS:
- 10 Childbirth Norms Parents can Refuse
- Natural Remedies for Morning Sickness and Prenatal Vitamins
- Whole Food Protein Sources for Pregnancy (and beyond)
- Alternatives to the Orange Glucose Drink for Gestational Diabetes Tests