WATCH NOW: Microbirth: A New Documentary Reveals The Microscopic Secrets Of Childhood
The way we give birth has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. Some leading scientists are warning that these changes could have serious repercussions for the lifelong health of our children. “MICROBIRTH” is a new feature-length documentary.
Featuring prominent scientists from the UK and North America, “Microbirth” examines how modern birth practices could be interfering with critical biological processes potentially making our children more susceptible to disease later in life.
Recent population studies have shown babies born by Caesarean Section have approximately a 20% increased risk of developing asthma, 20% increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, a similar risk with obesity and slightly smaller increases with gastro-intestinal conditions like Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease. These conditions are all linked to the immune system.
“Microbirth” explores several possible explanations. If a baby is born by Caesarean Section, scientists hypothesise this could alter the “seeding” of the baby’s microbiome, the critical transfer of good bacteria from mother to baby at birth. Scientists suggest this could lead to the baby’s immune system not developing to its full potential. Another hypothesis is the actual process of vaginal birth, including the cocktail of hormones produced during labour, could profoundly affect the baby’s immune regulation and metabolism.
Dr Rodney R Dietert, Professor of Immunotoxicology at Cornell University, says, “Over the past 20-30 years, we’ve seen dramatic increases in childhood asthma, type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, childhood obesity. We’ve also seen increases in Caesarean delivery. Does Caesarean cause these conditions? No. What Caesarean does is not allow the baby to be seeded with the microbes. The immune system doesn’t mature. And the metabolism changes. It’s the immune dysfunction and the changes in metabolism that we now know contribute to those diseases and conditions.”
Dr Matthew Hyde, Research Associate of Neonatal Medicine, Imperial College London says, ”We are increasingly seeing a world out there with what is really a public health time-bomb waiting to go off. And the research we are doing suggests it is only going to get worse, generation on generation. So tomorrow’s generation really is on the edge of the precipice unless we can begin to do something about it.”
The film’s co-director Alex Wakeford says, “The World Health Organization has stated non-communicable disease has reached epidemic levels. Leading economists have predicted that, by the year 2030, the cost of treating this epidemic could bankrupt global healthcare systems. Governments are extremely concerned about the repercussions of antibiotic resistance and the effect this level of disease could have upon social and economic stability on a global scale. What is not even on their agenda, however, is the possible effect of mode of birth.”
The film’s co-director Toni Harman adds, “Caesarean Sections are often essential and can be life-saving. A few leading individuals have been raising the alarm and building up a picture of potential long-term outcomes for some time. Over the last couple of years, more and more people have joined this debate and the weight of this emerging research is painting a very worrying picture in terms of future health across populations. The film raises awareness of the potential importance of “seeding” the microbiome for all babies, whether born naturally or by C-section. This is an issue not just for parents and health professionals, but also for all our world leaders. For surely now is the time for childbirth to be the focus of serious, urgent attention at the highest level?”
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