7 March 2016

Is water birth bad for baby's microbiota?

Ever since I read my first book on microbiota, I've been wondering if a baby born in a water birth pool still gets his mummy's best microbial starter pack!

Previous articles here on MBAI have covered how important it is for babies to be colonized by mum's vaginal and rectal microbes on their way out of their cozy womb where they were virtually germ-free (although this is now debatable). This early bug population is indeed essential in immunity development as well as a digestive help. And knowing that a lot of research data shows the link between increased disease risk and C-section due to baby being colonized by skin rather than vaginal bugs, I started to wonder about water birth!

Water birth (photo borrowed from here)

So, what happens when babies are born in a 'wet' environment? Here are the natural questions one could ask oneself:

  • How is the water treated? Does it kill or affect in any way mum's vaginal and rectal environments?
  • How is the pool treated? If it's a mild treatment to avoid the above, is it strong anti-microbial to kill off previous mums' inhabitants (pathogenic or not)?
  • When baby travels the birth canal, does he meet enough of mum's essential microbes to be colonized, or are they diluted?
  • When baby is taken out of the pool, is he patted dry more vigorously, cleaning off his microbes?

I don't know the definite answers to these questions. I couldn't find any scientific articles on the outcome but I found that:
- In terms of anti-microbial treatment, off-gas chlorine is usually used and can then be eliminated by adding Vitamin C powder to the water. Filtered water is also used as well as ozonated water!
- Baby's vernix is also thick enough not to be affected by any treatment!
- We can imagine that as baby passes through the birth canal, he will have swallowed copious amount of microbes already and will be colonized as if he had been born on 'dry' grounds!

I could however find a couple of blog posts asking the same question but speculating that yes water birth does have a negative influence on baby's microbiota.
(Note: It was also suggested that water pool should be used during labour only to ease the pain but to give birth on 'dry' grounds so the issues raised above are not too much of a worry!)

Needless to say, following each of these articles (here and here) were comments of diverse opinions:

A gastroenterology-focused naturopath and nutrigenomic specialist 'wrote' that she herself analyzed the microbiota of many infants and that there was no difference between babies born on 'dry' land and babies born in water pool. Many midwives also refuted the claim.

Have you given birth to your child in a water pool? Or at home?

If you'd like to share your thoughts or stories, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment, I'd love to read them.

See you next Monday!


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