The skin serves as the body’s first line of defense, making the maturation of skin microbial communities during childhood a crucial step in the development of the immune system into adulthood.
A recent study, Age and Mothers: Potent Influences of Children’s Skin Microbiota that investigated the changes in the skin microbiome of children, has indicated that the bacterial population on a child’s skin can be affected in the long term by the mode of delivery at birth. By proxy, this has consequences for, and impacts, our long-term health and immune system function.
What makes this study so interesting is the fact that only a few studies have analysed the skin microbiome in young children. The study observed significant differences between bacterial communities of 10-year-old children delivered by Caesarean-section or vaginal delivery, as well as discovering the facial bacterial composition of 10-year-old children was strongly associated with delivery mode at birth.
The difference in our bacterial communities due to delivery method may have life-long effects on how our immune systems function or the prevalence of certain conditions. The research confirms our the mode of birth is important, but it should be noted that associated practices or factors are to be explored further – from swabbing babies with bacteria after birth, to breastfeeding and even the role of antibiotics given during caesareans.
Contributor to The Secret Life of Skin, Dr Barbara Brockway, explores in her blog the marked difference in skin microbiota between babies who experience vaginal birth and those delivered by caesarean section. We’ve also investigated the debate around the placental microbiome here on The Secret Life of Skin blog.