Birth Method and Gestation Duration May Alter Infants Gut Microbiota

Infant Gut MicrobiotaBirth method and gestation duration appear to make a significant difference in the health of babies, with new research finding that such environmental factors may affect the way in which gut bacteria mature. The study published in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, could help predict later body fat and adds to the growing body of evidence of the importance of pregnancy length and birth method.

For the present study, international researchers from the EpiGen consortium in collaboration with scientists at Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland sought to investigate the effect of environmental factors including delivery mode and duration of gestation on trajectories of microbial development along with the associative relationships with later body fat.

Looking at a group of 75 infants, the researchers found that babies born vaginally and after longer gestations tended to develop a more mature gut microbiota more quickly and had typical body fat at 18 months. In contrast, babies born via Cesarean section and after shorter gestations developed a more mature gut microbiota more slowly and had lower body fat at 18 months.

Babies begin accumulating intestinal microbiota at birth until reaching a relatively stable state. Researchers believe that the rate of acquisition of gut microbes may have a considerable impact on later health outcomes.

All the infants participating in the study took part in the GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Toward Healthy Outcomes) study, which includes members of the three main ethnic groups in Singapore: Chinese, Indian, and Malay and is the largest birth cohort study in Singapore to date. All the babies in the study were born at term. The researchers took stool sample from the babies at three days old, three weeks old, three months old, and six months old and examined the samples using a laboratory technique called 16s rRNA sequencing.

Of the 17 infants who had a more mature, six month-like microbiota profile high in the bacteria Bifidobacterium and Collinsella by day three, 16 had been born vaginally. Most other babies took up to six months to reach the same stage of gut microbiota maturity. Additionally, infants who more quickly acquired a profile high in Bifidobacterium and Collinsella had typical body fat at age 18 months, while babies who acquired the same profile more slowly had relatively low body fat.

Says senior study author Joanna Holbrook, a senior principal investigator at the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences:

“It seems like the early environment, for instance mode of delivery, mode of feeding, the duration of gestation and living environment may be influencing the rate at which babies acquire their gut microbiota, and that in turn has an association with how babies grow and put on body fat.”

Another study from last year concluded that the gut bacteria of babies born vaginally differs from the gut bacteria of babies born via cesarean section and that natural birth provides a boost to the immune system.


Birth method, gestation duration may alter infants’ gut microbiota:
Birth method, gestation duration may alter infants’ gut microbiota and influence later health:

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