Birth, like life, is messy. But, while life’s messes often harm health, the untidiness of our entrance into the world may profoundly protect it—at least that’s a leading hypothesis among microbiome researchers.
Microbes picked up from mom while in or exiting the womb kick-off humans’ lifelong association with the invisible critters that live in and on us and affect our health. In cases where that microbial colonization of a newborn goes awry, researchers have noted links to chronic health problems, such as asthma, obesity, allergies and immune deficiencies. Researchers have also found that such a microbial debacle is often brought on by Cesarean delivery (C-section), which is a common surgical procedure to birth a baby through the mother’s abdomen rather than the normal shove down the birth canal.
To reverse the potential ill-fate of C-section babies, researchers smeared surgically delivered babies with the vaginal fluids from their mothers in the moments just after birth. After tracking the babies and their microbiomes for a month, the researchers report Monday in Nature Medicine that the quick slather partly restored normal microbiome development.