How Mamma’s Gut Microbiome Transfers to Baby Prior to Birth
This week I want to share with all of you the exciting and emerging research on one of my favorite creepy, crawly topics. You’ve got it! This blog is on our belly and body critter inhabitants!
You know by now all the amazing health benefits a balanced microbiota can provide us. From emotional balance, immune protection, cardiovascular health, digestive health, and so much more, a happy bug population makes for a healthy us! I know that I promised you that I’d be continuing on with my radiation series, and I will. I am currently working on this for publication in a few weeks, so no worries! For this moment, let’s dive back into the microbial world.
Recently, I was published in Natural Path on the topic of how mamma transfers her microbes prior to vaginal delivery, which is a relatively new discovery. Previously, it was believed the baby was sterile until it passed through the vaginal canal. These new findings mean there is a significant role of the microbiome in prenatal health. Specifically, there is evidence that the microbiome transfers from mom to fetus through placental translocation. Due to the fact that the critters that live in our bellies are so important for a variety of health outcomes, this explains a mechanism on why, when mom does something that shifts her microbial population, alterations in her child’s wellness can occur.
Why is this important?
With this explosion of study results, scientific reviews, and emerging research, connections have been verified between the microbiome and a vast amount of health effects. I discussed many of them in a previous post4 and they include manufacturing of various vitamins, tumor growth and pathogen inhibition; modulation of cardiovascular and fatty liver disease risk; mood and behavior influences; detoxification support, drug metabolism,5 digestive health, estrogen metabolism and weight; blood sugar and risk for diabetes; skin health; food sensitization and allergies; autism risk, autoimmunity, and other disease processes.4-6
You may be curious as to the specifics on how this placental transfer occurs. I summarized this in my article as follows:
In a 2014, a pivotal hypothesis article entitled, “A holobiont birth narrative: the epigenetic transmission of the human microbiome,” published in Frontiers in Genetics, author Scott Gilbert sought out to “expand, explore, and re-tell the human birth narrative.” The article abstract summarizes the findings, including support for the non-sterile fetus. The abstract reads as follows (parenthesis mine for added clarification):
- bacterial symbionts (organisms that live and depend on one another) might cause some of the characteristics of pregnancy and prepare a symbiotic community for transfer;
- the first bacterial colonizers of the mammalian organism my enter the fetus prior to the lysing of the amniotic membrane and birth; (bacteria may be present to the growing fetus, prior to birth)
- the same signals that often cause immunological attack against a microbe may serve under these conditions to signal homeostatic stability between symbiont and host; and (in non-pregnant conditions, setting up of these microbial communities may cause an immunological response to the mother, but in pregnancy it creates a stable host-microbe relationship)
- the mother may actively provide substances that promote the growth and settlement of helpful bacteria.8
The good news is that our microbiome is influenced by many modifiable factors. Therefore, moms-to-be can use this information to protect their precious bugs by diet, lifestyle, exercise, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotics.
You can read the rest of the article and learn more about microbial health and birth outcomes here. As a bonus, I discuss how the “vagiome” affects preterm delivery.
In summary, our first transmission of our microbiome is in mom’s belly. This is followed by the birthing process, and then breastfeeding, and, finally, our environment. Recently, a new study provided evidence that, just by being around our friends, families, and various strangers, we can take advantage of or be disadvantaged by their own microbial cloud!!