words by Dr Taylor Bean
When a very good friend of mine and midwife sent me the Microbirth trailer, I was intrigued to learn more about how our decisions during childbirth can potentially have a profound effect on our children’s health. Now, having watched the film, I would say that anyone working in childbirth or planning to have a baby, should watch it.
Microbirth explores the latest scientific research about how interventions during childbirth can have life-long consequences on the child’s health. One area in particular was the impact of caesarean birth and the use of artificial oxytocin.
This film talks about the concept of seeding the baby’s gut microbiome and how a lack of bacteria from birth is playing a role in the ever-increasing incidences of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, asthma, and allergies. When children are born via a caesarean birth, they miss out on receiving the friendly flora from their mother that is necessary for feeding the digestive tract and supporting the immune system.
Extensive research has been done to unfold the symbiotic relationship between mammals and bacteria. Bacteria is essential for our survival and good bacteria keeps bad bacteria in check. Something I found interesting in the movie is that we are actually considered 90% bacteria and 10% human based on the amount of bacteria living within us.
What was really encouraging about the film is that it focused on explaining how we can change the very starting point of our problems, which is seeding our babies with good bacteria at birth. Three key points are vaginal births, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding for at least six months. We are already aware of the importance of each of these things and Microbirth explains why they are.
The film, however, suggests that we have one chance, at birth, to get this microbial environment correct. I do not think this is entirely true as our internal and external environments are always changing. Epigenetics was another area the film touched upon. This is the concept of how our environment plays a role in turning our genes on and off. In effect, we can change our gene expression and so also our overall health. This can be done very easily by ensuring that we create an environment which switches off the so-called destructive (some call them survival) genes and switch on the genes that allow the body to function optimally and back into balance.
What was very motivational for me was seeing bacteria differently. This has shone new light on the negatives of our marketing-fuelled anti-bacterial culture. Just because something is anti-bacterial, it does not mean it is good for you. We truly need to understand the pinnacle role bacteria plays in our life and how our health depends on them.
As a naturopathic doctor, digestive health is one of the most common and most important areas I work on with my patients. It is my goal to have more people consuming fermented foods and re-balancing their bacterial levels to help further prevent chronic (non-communicable) diseases. Bacteria is a part of us and the statement from the film “we are a walking ecosystem…an ecosystem under threat” really says something.
Dr Bean is a Singapore-based Canadian Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about finding the underlying imbalance and supporting her patients in coming back to health and wellbeing. She believes in integrative medicine and chooses treatments based on what is most compatible and effective. As a new mom herself, Dr Bean is a keen supporter of bringing natural options into the birthing experience and creates wellness programs for her soon-to-be mothers. www.DrTaylorBean.com