Babies and Bacteria: How 'Clean' Is Your Womb?

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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Mar 2017
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Photo: Shutterstock

A new study has the dirt on some unexpected pregnancy physiology; the womb isn’t so sterile after all.

Previously, doctors were taught that the amniotic sac was a bacteria-free environment, protecting baby and his undeveloped immune system. They believed baby first comes into contact with bacteria during vaginal birth. But recent papers published in the journal Birth Defects Research Part C: Embryo Today reveal something different: small amounts of bacteria in the amniotic sac, placenta and even baby’s intestines.

So what does it mean if baby’s individual bacterial makeup, or microbiome, starts even earlier than we thought? Nothing game-changing, really; just an added emphasis on prenatal health.

Scientists are researching exactly how bacteria makes its way into the amniotic sac, guessing mom’s mouth is the entry point. That means both the foods she eats and her dental hygiene can influence what bacteria is passed on to baby, playing a role in development and even diseases baby becomes susceptible to later in life.

While researchers can’t yet determine what’s a “good” or “bad” microbiome for a fetus, co-author Dr. Sharon Meropol says these findings drive some important points home: "There are certainly things like maternal dental hygiene and not taking unnecessary antibiotics that pregnant women should consider. We knew it was important for mom to be healthy but now there is even more evidence for how important the maternal environment is.”

(via TIME)

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