A recent doctoral study conducted at the University of Turku has revealed that babies born via caesarean section are more likely to develop non-communicable diseases and obesity in later life. The research suggests that this connection could be attributed to variations in early microbial contact.
The number of babies delivered via caesarean section has been on the rise worldwide. In Finland and other Nordic countries, the increase has been more modest compared to many other nations.
Simultaneously, chronic immune-mediated non-communicable diseases and obesity have become more prevalent in Western countries over the past decades.
The doctoral thesis of Henriina Hermansson, MD, who is defending her thesis at the University of Turku, demonstrates that individuals born via caesarean section were more prone to asthma, allergies, and obesity by the age of 21.
Hermansson's research aimed to investigate the impact of birth method on a child's later health and to understand the mechanisms through which the effects of birth method are transmitted to the child's long-term health.
Cesarean Section Influences Breast Milk Microbiota Composition
Early microbial contact with infants has been linked to their long-term health outcomes.
Differences were found in the composition of breast milk microbiota of mothers who delivered via caesarean section compared to those who delivered vaginally. The variations in breast milk microbiota were not attributed to antibiotic treatment given during delivery.
"The connection between caesarean sections and non-communicable diseases has been explained by different microbial contact during birth. In this study, we observed that the distinct microbial contact persists after birth through breast milk transmission," Hermansson explains.
Pregnancy Microbiota Remains Unchanged after Birth
During pregnancy, changes in a mother's gut microbiota have been noted, with an increase in the relative proportion of inflammation-inducing bacteria. The study found that these prenatal changes in the mother's gut microbiota remained nearly unchanged after birth. Additionally, the concentrations of inflammation-inducing mediators in the mother's blood increased after pregnancy, thus sustaining an inflammatory state in the body after pregnancy.
Researchers emphasize that if the rate of caesarean sections remains constant in the future, safe methods to modify early microbial contact should be explored.
"One approach could involve different probiotic supplements during pregnancy and infancy. Probiotic supplements refer to live microbial preparations that can support beneficial gut microbiota. However, more research is needed in this area," Hermansson concludes.