Birth and the microbiome
Choices. We all have to make choices in pregnancy and birth, and making sure those choices are informed ones is important.
I’ve been reading Your Baby’s Microbiome by Toni Harman and it illustrates why informed choice is so important. When I was pregnant with my second child, my waters released and my contractions didn’t start. After a traumatic induction with my first, I was adamant I didn’t want to be induced again, so I had done my research and prepared my argument for waiting to see if labour started on its own. I agreed to go in to be checked, and was faced with a midwife who tried to persuade me to stay and be induced, who then went and got a doctor to try and convince me when I said no. It hadn’t even been 12 hours since my waters released and I knew the NICE guidelines and declined despite a lot of coercion. I also declined prophylactic antibiotics. I am so glad that I did. I am not against antibiotic use. My kids have had their fair share of them thanks to chest infections over the years. But I was dead set against using antibiotics “just in case”. Baby was monitored and happy. I had no fever or signs of infection. And I KNEW that protecting the beneficial bacteria in my body, as well as the baby’s, far outweighed the potential benefits of antibiotics at that point. That was MY CHOICE. So I went against medical advice and declined both antibiotics and induction, and went home. I went on to labour at home, travelled back to hospital when I was ready, and had an extremely quick and positive birth on the midwifery led unit.
Reading Toni’s book about the importance of the microbiome, and the potential life long effects to a baby’s immune system that can occur when they are denied beneficial bacteria exposure at birth, reaffirms in my mind that I made the right choice for me and my baby. That may not be the same choice as someone else. But as a parent of children with allergies, asthma and eczema, I find it intriguing that it’s my eldest who was exposed to antibiotic use at birth who has the most severe allergies, eczema and suffered digestive issues which led to horrific behavioural issues with feeding (which also impacted my own mental health).
The choices you make (or potentially don’t make because you left those decisions up to others) can have a life long impact on your child’s physical health. It’s why it is SO important to learn about your options, read up on the risks and benefits, what’s necessary, what’s not, and make a plan. Birth is just the very first step in a life time of decision making you will carry out for the benefit of your child. Don’t neglect it, and don’t leave it up to someone else to decide what’s best for you and your baby.