A new study says that the gut health of the baby is influenced by where they are born. Now, this is something new. Though often the obvious choice for childbirth is a hospital, there are other options available. Women sometimes look for comfort, and what’ll help them get through labor. It can be giving birth at the comfort of your own home or a birth center. If you are planning for a home birth, you might have come across many naysayers. “You are only thinking about yourself!”, “What about the safety of the baby?”, “It’s too much risk.” But could this study throw new light on the benefits of home birth? Let’s read to find out.
What The Study Says
You might have probably read about the pros of having a home birth over a standard hospital delivery. There are even many studies that show how a home birth has various benefits for the mother and the baby.
However, not much study has been conducted regarding the gut health of infants born at home and in hospital.
A recent study by Rutgers University found that the gut health of babies born at home was better when compared to babies who were born at the hospital. The feces of babies were examined and found that infants born at home had more diverse bacteria compared to the other (1).
In the study, 35 mother-infant pairs were examined for a month after birth. Out of these, 14 babies were delivered from home. And out of 14, 4 of them had water births. The rest 21 were delivered at the hospital. All 35 babies were delivered normally without any interventions or any maternal antibiotic treatment. All the babies had exclusive breastfeeding soon after birth and also had skin-to-skin contact. However, among the 21 mothers who gave birth in the hospital, 11 of them received treatment with antibiotics.
Fecal samples were collected from both mothers as well as babies. Also, vaginal swab samples were taken from the mothers on specific days. These feces and vaginal samples were collected starting from the day of childbirth, followed by 1, 2, 7, 14, 21, and 28th day of the baby’s life.
It was found that infants born at home had better gut health than those who were born at the hospital.
What It Means
The cause for the differences between babies born at home and the hospital is not really known. But it is speculated that the multiple interventions that are performed at the time of birth may affect the human microbiome. Though interventions are usually carried out for safe obstetric care, many interventions are performed unnecessarily thinking it doesn’t have any consequences on the mother or the baby. The usual hospital interventions which include early bathing of the infant, antibiotic eye prophylaxis and the environmental factors could be a reason for the differences (2).
Are Bacteria Important?
You would not believe it, but there are actually trillions of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that live on and inside our bodies. As a kid, we always thought all bacterias are bad. But there are good bacterias and bad bacterias. Many of the bacteria which are present in us are beneficial. They provide us better health and prevent certain health conditions like diabetes, asthma, and obesity. These bacteria also help prevent inflammatory bowel diseases. The microbes which are transmitted from the mother to the baby during childbirth helps in the prevention of chronic diseases later in life (3). So, bacterias can have more benefits than you might have thought.
As women, we want to make informed choices the moment we find out we are having a baby. And if you were already planning for a home birth, this new study might have reaffirmed your decision. But for others, the decision between home and hospital birth may not be as simple. With new studies and research happening every year, it can be overwhelming for anyone to dissect all the information and make the right choice. However, more research needs to be conducted to find out and establish if the babies born at home indeed have better gut health.