I've heard that babies born by C-section are more likely to develop allergies. Why might this be?
DR. ALAN GREENE:
One of the benefits of vaginal birth is the gift of Mom's beneficial bacteria to the baby. Normally, these quickly take up residence in the newborn's gut. Cesarean sections can be life-saving interventions, but the sterile environment they require can change or delay beneficial bacteria making their home in the baby's intestinal tract.
Perhaps this is the reason that cesarean section delivery increased the risk of food allergy by 106 percent and the risk of infant diarrhea by 46 percent compared to vaginal birth, in a study published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood. The study followed 865 healthy, term, breastfed babies to look for changes in allergies and gastrointestinal illnesses after cesarean deliveries. Despite the food allergy and diarrhea evidence, there was some good news for families who had cesarean sections - the researchers found no increase in colic, crying, or eczema following cesarean delivery.
Still, this study supports a growing body of evidence that beneficial bacteria play an important role in the developing immune system. Other studies suggest that breastfeeding mothers can help their babies, no matter how the babies are delivered, by eating foods such as yogurt that contain beneficial bacteria or by taking probiotic supplements themselves.
Alan Greene, M.D. earned a Bachelor's degree from Princeton University and graduated from medical school at University of California at San Francisco. Upon completion of his pediatric residency program at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Northern California in 1993, he served as Chief Resident. During his Chief year, Dr. Greene passed the pediatric boards in the top 5 percent of the nation.
Dr. Greene entered primary care pediatrics in January 1993. He is on the Clinical Faculty at Stanford University School of Medicine where he sees patients and teaches Residents. He is also the Founder & CEO of DrGreene.com. Dr. Greene was also named Intel's Internet Health Hero for children's health. He is an author, medical expert, and a media personality.
Dr. Greene is the author of Raising Baby Green (Wiley Books, 2007), From First Kicks to First Steps (McGraw-Hill, 2004), and The Parent's Complete Guide to Ear Infections (Avon Books, 1997). He is also a co-author of the A.D.A.M. Illustrated Family Health Guide (A.D.A.M., Inc., 2004). Dr. Greene has appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Parent, Child, American Baby, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Better Home's & Gardens, and Reader's Digest. He also appears frequently on television and radio shows as a medical expert.