I have recently been doing research about the health benefits of probiotics. While doing this research I have come across an interesting claim that

"During a delivery through the birth canal, a newborn picks up bacteria from his/her mother. These good bacteria are not transmitted when a Cesarean section is performed and have been shown to be the reason why some infants born by Cesarean section have allergies, less than optimal immune systems, and lower levels of gut microflora."

I have also found some supporting evidence for this claim on this website. Is there substantial truth to this claim?

  • 2
    The second link you posted is well referenced with 8 scholarly sources. What additional information would you like from an answer here that isn't already there?
    – Sam I Am
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 5:53
  • @SamIAm Let's just say I'm still a skeptic on the matter. The article primarily focuses on asthma, and the author states that "results are conflicting". I think it poses an interesting skeptics question and if the community feels it to be true or not, will add to the site.
    – jsmith
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 13:25
  • 1
    +1 I've also encountered a claim that c-sections affect diabetes. adc.bmj.com/content/early/2012/05/09/…
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


Research is not finished on this topic, as one can see from recent papers. Newer studies than those cited not only confirm the statement on gut flora but go further, namely that other habitats, not only the gut, are impacted:

We found that in direct contrast to the highly differentiated communities of their mothers, neonates harbored bacterial communities that were undifferentiated across multiple body habitats, regardless of delivery mode. Our results also show that vaginally delivered infants acquired bacterial communities resembling their own mother's vaginal microbiota, dominated by Lactobacillus, Prevotella, or Sneathia spp., and C-section infants harbored bacterial communities similar to those found on the skin surface, dominated by Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium, and Propionibacterium spp.

Dominguez-Bello MG, Costello EK, Contreras M, et al.: Delivery mode shapes the acquisition and structure of the initial microbiota across multiple body habitats in newborns. In: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.. 107, Nr. 26, Juni 2010, S. 11971–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.1002601107. PMID 20566857. Free full text

A recent review concluded

Given the complexity of the gut micriobiota, additional research is needed before we can confidently establish whether its manipulation in early life can prevent or treat asthma, obesity, or both.

N. P. Ly, A. Litonjua, D. R. Gold, J. C. Celedón: ''Gut microbiota, probiotics, and vitamin D: interrelated exposures influencing allergy, asthma, and obesity?'' In: ''The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology.'' Band 127, Nummer 5, Mai 2011, S. 1087–1094. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.02.015. PMID 21419479. Free full text

So, please ask this again in three or five years. However, the fact that gut and other flora are greatly influenced by delivery appears to be without question, and is in itself an argument against Caesarean, IMHO.

  • +1 Thank you for your answer, it gives good information. I do not think I can accept it as the answer though, since based on your own conclusion I need to re ask the question in three to five years. If this is true, I would prefer to bounty it again (maybe in a year), when enough research can be done to properly answer the question.
    – jsmith
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:24
  • Fair enough, and do not hesitate to ask again. This is one of the most interesting topics with new results, due to technical advances in DNA sequencing. We really had an information deficit before, concerning bacterial species in all kind of microbiomes.
    – rwst
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:10
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    It's been 5 years since this question was asked: any updates? Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 21:21

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