Birth pangs

Published: Friday 31 December 2004

babies born via a caesarean operation are prone to various health problems, says research conducted by B Laubereau and co-workers from the Institute of Epidemiology, Germany. They studied 865 neonates who were breast-fed during their first four months. Data were obtained by follow-up visits when the babies were 1, 4, 8, and 12 months old. The researchers found that infants born via the caesarean operation had a greater risk of suffering from diarrhoea and were more sensitive to food allergens.

The authors suggest many reasons for the vulnerability, the key being delayed establishment of the normal bacterial population of the intestines and a consequent impairment of the gut barrier that plays an important role in post-natal maturation of the immune system and the capacity to digest.

It is well known that caesarean babies have less of beneficial bacteria. Reason -- the colonisation of these bacteria in caesarean babies is influenced by the hospital environs; in the case of a normal delivery, it is influenced by the beneficial bacterial population of the mother's vagina and intestines. Moreover, consumption of antibiotics by mothers before operation also diminishes the chances of a child inheriting beneficial bacteria.

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