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This blog is for sharing interesting information about yoga, pregnancy, birth, parenting and anything else I think you might be interested in!


I will also post related local events here.

By Tessa of, Nov 15 2015 01:41PM

Your microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microscopic organisms that line vital body parts such as your intestines, mouth, and skin. They have evolved with us to help us function optimally. The microbiome plays a role in digestion, regulation of your immune system, disease prevention, would healing, gut lining protection, appetite control, brain development and even your emotions. You don't really want to mess it up!

Newborn being weighed after birth
Newborn being weighed after birth

Your developing fetus is almost completely sealed off from your microbes in the womb. However, just before birth, a pregnant woman's vagina acquaires new bacterial species that would normally live in the gut. These species then come into contact with the baby's skin, eyes and mouth as it passes through the birth canal during a vaginal birth. The birth canal also supplies newborns with the bacteria Lactobacillus, which hleps babies digest milk and develops the immune system. This sets up the newborn's own microbiome for a healthy start in life. In contrast, a baby that is born by a caeserean birth does not come into contact with all of the same species and is more likely to have the surgeon's bacteria and ones prevalent in hospitals such as E coli. As a result then have a slightly heightened risk of developing allergies, gut infections and diabetes, although more research is needed into the longer term effects of missing out on this transferral of the mother's microbiome. Some research has indicated that those born by caeserean have a 20% increased chance of developing asthma than those born vaginally.

The important part of this blog is that you know there is something you can do about it! This microbial 'birthday suit' can be passed to the baby even when s/he arrives via a caeserean birth. Research trials are looking at the effects of placing a gauze inside the vagina an hour before surgery, then putting it in a sterile pot. Immediately after the birth, the gauze is wiped over the baby's mouth, head and rest of the body. If I was to have a third child, I would do this in the eventuality of a caeserean birth while we wait for the research results. Research supports the importance of the microbiome and I wouldn't wait for it to become standard procedure before acting! With a quarter of babies being born by caeserean in the UK, I'm sure that this will become standard procedure in a couple of years time. So another thing for your hospital bag: gauze and a sterile pot, and a willing partner to help you swab the baby afterwards. If you are having a planned caeserean, you could also speak to your consultant about 'seeding' the baby's microbiome.

I haven't read anywhere about the effects of induction on the microbiome, but I wonder whether inducing the expectant mother before the baby is ready to come could also lead to a reduction in the species transferred. If a woman's vagina acquires a new bacterial species just before birth, to interfer with the natural timing of birth could mean that these bacteria aren't present when an induced baby descends through the birth canal. Of course, sometimes inductions are necessary, but other times I wonder whether we should trust the process and not the hospitals' timeframes for different stages of birth.

Another important aspect of the newborn's microbiome is created through breast milk. Breast milk supplies a baby with a healthy dose of bacteria. New research has found that 10% of every woman's breast milk contains complex carbohydrates that a baby can't digest. So why is it there? Researchers speculate that it is there specifically to fortify the baby's microbiome bacteria. The microbial composition of breast milk changes over time, and is shaped by the mother's weight and whether the baby was born vaginally or via a caeserean birth. Any breast milk will help create the newborn's microbiome, so giving only the colostrum will help. However, if an infant has antibiotics, for example for an ear infection, this can diminish the species in the microbiome, which breast milk can help repopulate.

Pictures of the diversity and amount of species show the difference between babies born vaginally and breastfed, those born vaginally and formula fed, those born via caeserean and breastfed, and those via caeserean and forumla fed. Some cite the rise of caeserean and exclusive formula feeding as contributing to an epidemic of long term ill health. This blog is not written as a judgement on any of these practices, but to raise awareness of the consequences (that are only just becoming apparent) and how we can tackle them.

I come back to what I always say in class: the female body is truly amazing! As we recognise how amazing she is, we can give her a helping hand when necessary.

For more information (and all the evidence to back the above up): see and

I would also recommed you watch the MicroBirth movie, which is available on FMTV free on the 10 day trial.

By Tessa of, May 13 2014 12:59PM

All over the news today is the change in policy where more women wil be encouraged to have their babies in midwife-led units or at home. See this video for one side of the debate! I know that for many women it is important to have the safety net of hospital. I wonder if they could have had a more balanced panel however. He asked why on earth would you have a homebirth? It's a shame that none of them could imagine why women choose homebirths.

I think the important point is that we want women to have choices that are safe for them, and to be informed about the potential consequences (benefits and risks) of different options. When talking to mums at playgroups I am often struck about how many were not aware that there was any choice although they had straightforward 'normal' pregnancies.

And I think there needs to be discussion about the way in which information is presented to a woman when she is in labour. How many times have I been told by a mum that she felt coerced into induction because the clinician had said "Do you want to risk a dead baby?" This is emotional blackmail, at a time of great vulnerability, and does not allow a woman and her partner to make an informed choice.

By focusing on the outcome, a lot of the wider context has been missed in these articles and news reports. Why not spend more money on educating women about the process of birthing their babies and giving them tools (yoga, hypnobirthing, massage) to give them a better chance of a normal birth? Why should only those who can afford it get more detailed information and support (e.g. through NCT classes)? In the long run, I can imagine the NHS would save money by providing better preparation. Why don't we have a clinical trial to test this? With my research background, I would be thrilled to participate in a clinical trial to look at the benefits of pregnancy yoga on delivery outcomes.

Image: Minutes after my second daughter was born at home...

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