(Natural News) Antibiotics are often touted as the paragon of modern medicine; a cure-all for whatever it is that ails. But recent research has consistently shown that antibiotics are not the wonder-drugs mainstream medicine has made them out to be. In fact, there are substantial concerns about the health risks associated with antibiotic use — especially when it comes to infants and young children. Now, research from Canada’s McMaster University has shown that antibiotic administration during labor can negatively affect the gut health of newborn children as well.
According to their recent studies, giving moms antibiotics during labor can delay the growth of healthy gut bacteria (also known as the microbiota) in newborn infants for up to the first 12 weeks of life. And as the researchers note, early development of healthy microbiota is essential for lifetime health.
Jennifer Stearns, assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University‘s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and scientist at the University’s Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, was one of the study’s primary authors and emphasized the importance of gut bacteria in early childhood.
“Early life microbial colonization and succession is critically important to healthy development, with impacts on metabolic and immunologic processes throughout life,” she explained.
To assess infant gut bacteria development, Stearns and the rest of the team tested the babies’ gut bacteria at four different points in time during the first 12 weeks of life — at three days, ten days, six weeks and 12 weeks. A total of 74 mother-and-infant pairs participated in the study.
What they found was that infants given antibiotics displayed a significant delay in microbiota development and maturation for the first several weeks of life. In most cases, the gut bacteria recouped by 12 weeks — but Stearns contends that the long-term effects of this delay remain unclear. Development in early infancy is a critical time in a child’s life, and any disruptions could set the stage for other problems down the line.
Stearns explained, “Our research indicates there is a delay in the expansion of the dominant infant gut colonizer, called Bifidobacterium, when infants are exposed to antibiotics for GBS prevention during vaginal labour.”
“It’s a good sign that bacterial groups recover by 12 weeks but it’s still unclear what these findings mean for infant health, especially since early infancy is such an important developmental time,” she added. While more research is needed to understand the scope of what the effects of antibiotic administration during labor, other studies have already looked at the long-term effects of antibiotics in young children.
Previous research has pointed to long-term negative effects when antibiotics are given to toddlers, for example. A study published in 2016 found that toddlers given antibiotic medications were more likely to become obese, for example.
Further, recent research has also shown that antibiotic use may set the stage for an array of autoimmune diseases. As Natural News writer Tracey Watson reported in September, a scientific study from Harvard University confirmed the direct link between gut health, immunity and autoimmune disease — and that antibiotic use can interrupt the precious balance needed to keep illness at bay.
Given the importance of developing a healthy gut in early life, there are many concerns about the effects of antibiotic use in infants — and now, growing concerns about antibiotics being used during labor and delivery. While what the degree of any negative effects may be is unknown, the fact that antibiotics may be delaying healthy gut development for up to the first three months of life is surely a red flag. [Related: Learn more about natural remedies and alternatives at NaturalMedicine.news]
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