Does your birth, vaginal or cesarean section, decide how you respond to vaccines?

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How you were born decides the type of immunity you get and the amount of protective antibodies you can produce after being vaccinated. Research conducted by the University of Edinburgh, as well as Spaarne Hospital and Utrecht University Medical Center in the Netherlands, has shown that babies born vaginally had twice the level of protective antibodies after they were They administered childhood vaccinations. And that’s because vaginal delivery puts the new baby in contact with the good bacteria in its mother’s birth canal that also colonize it. A C-section baby does not receive this initial protection and therefore may need more probiotics or additional vaccinations.

The results, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, showed how these beneficial bacteria doubled antibody levels in response to pneumococcal and meningococcal vaccines. Other vaccines, such as influenza and BCG for tuberculosis, have already been shown to be influenced by the microbiome.

Assessing the study, Dr. Gunjan Gupta Govil, Founder and Chairman of Gunjan IVF World Group, says: “Several international studies on the same subject have been conducted before and have come to similar conclusions. There are compound factors to consider, such as the effects of microbiomes during vaginal delivery, breastfeeding, gestational nutrition, and other environmental factors. During natural delivery, the newborn is exposed to various intestinal bacteria through the birth canal. This bacterium releases short-chain fatty acids that aid in the development of B cells, known to produce antibodies. This is why the method of birth plays a key role in determining/altering the power of the vaccine later on,” he explains.

However, he also argues that the caesarean section is an urgent requirement and should not be viewed negatively. “Cesarean section is used to eliminate risk factors in both the mother and the child. There is not yet enough data to confirm the theory that children born by caesarean section and those born vaginally have different impacts of vaccines on their immune systems. Although the studies performed have a smaller cohort, additional studies with a larger group size can efficiently conclude the correlation. In addition, the study does not include breastfeeding, which is another important factor since giving colostrum (the mother’s first milk) to the newborn strengthens the immune system. And if this is proven worldwide, then the C-section baby can be given probiotics,” she adds.

“The theory is fairly new, but it is not yet clear whether similar associations can be made when dealing with babies from different countries and regions because many factors influence the composition of a baby’s immune system,” says Dr. Govil.

Dr. (Major) Indu Gaur, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Escorts, Faridabad, advocates for data on long-term impact. “Recent epidemiological studies provide evidence that elective caesarean delivery is associated with short-term aberrant immune responses in the newborn, with an increased risk of them developing immune-mediated diseases such as asthma, allergies, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease. However, it is not yet known whether C-sec causes a long-term effect on the offspring’s immune system that contributes to compromised immune health. Greater emphasis should be placed on the discussion between professionals and women of childbearing age about the possible consequences of cesarean section on the health of the offspring. It is also important to note that both the mother undergoing C-Sec and her baby are more likely to be treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics may disturb the intestinal microflora rather than the birth process itself.”

The researchers tracked the gut microbiomes of 120 babies from their first poop (or meconium) until they were one year old to reach their conclusion. All of the babies in the study were healthy, had reached term, and therefore the findings were not affected by other diseases or preterm birth. Of course, considering that this concern has been around for a long time, there has been a growing trend of “vaginal seeding” in which C-section babies are soiled with the mother’s vaginal fluids. A recent study even tested a fecal transplant to pass gut bacteria from mother to child. But until there is a multifactorial study in a larger cohort, there is no reason to hit the panic button.

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