About Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, Own Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression.

I can be incredibly impatient. When I want something done, I want it done yesterday. If there's an easier, faster, more direct way to complete a task, I'm all about it. I've also, over the years, become more sensitive to the illusion of the "free lunch" that conventional medicine offers – birth control for annoying period-related symptoms (or just annoying periods), antidepressants, benzos, and stimulants for annoying lifestyles, acid blockers for annoying effects of the American diet, antibiotics for the infection we just don't have time for, even packaged, processed food for the mom who grows pale at the prospect of a stove and ingredients.

It's easy to see a c-section as the most logical option when compared to a seemingly less predictable, painful, and drawn out animalistic, now marginalized as radical, natural (or physiologic) birth. I mean, who has time for a two day labor? Why would you experience pain when you don't have to?

It's taken 30% of humans entering the world in an operating room for us to begin to examine what might be wrong with this approach. Despite surgical birth, and the epidural escort, being sold to women as an irresistible panacea, cesarean section carries the often undisclosed risks of  an almost four-fold increase in both maternal and fetal death, as well as a feast of potential consequences, boldly cited on this mainstream Medscape post.

There happens to be one emerging consideration, however, that makes surgical birth a bad deal for your baby.

This generation of doctors did not learn about epigenetics or the microbiome and the relevance of microorganisms to our health and wellness, in medical school. That means that your OB can't counsel you on risks of a missed opportunity for, not only transmission of these bugs but other epigenetic impacts of vaginal birth that we are just beginning to elucidate. You need to educate yourself about these concepts and dig deep to access your own answer to the question – what's best for me and for my baby? All paths are not equal.

If you're trying to calm your system down, you can meditate or you can drink six shots of vodka and odds are your physiology will reflect the difference.

Data suggests that those born surgically are colonized with different diversity and species of dominant bacteria than those born vaginally, and perhaps even with the skin flora of strangers. The most recent contribution is a Chinese case-control study examined the fecal bacteria of vaginal and cesarean delivery babies finding:

In VD infants, Escherichia coli, Bacteroides sp, and Bifidobacterium longum were the dominant microbes. In CD infants, Staphylococcus sp, Clostridium sp, Enterobacter sp, and Streptococcus sp were more common.

We don't know what the implications of this shift in expected colonies are apart from increased epidemiologic incidence asthma, diabetes, resistant infection, and obesity, with questions about dots not yet connected such as autoimmunity, neurodevelopment, and vulnerability to toxic injury. Mothers who birth surgically are less likely to want to breastfeed and two times more likely to fail at it. Breastfeeding is not only the primary way to ensure bonding, but it is the completion of the immune education that a mother offers her baby, so these babies may be suffering a multi-tiered assault.

There are pilot studies underway examining the redemptive potential of vaginal-oral swabs for these infants, but our duty is to reclaim the role of physiologic birth, for women and their journeys toward empowerment, as well as for our children.

Read more about the holobiont, the origins of a healthy microbiome, and how to build a healthy gut.