On Saturday, 20th September, The University of Worcester and the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) collaborated to show the latest film from the makers of ‘Freedom for Birth’. An audience of 50 people from both the University and the general public watched ‘Microbirth’ at The Hive. We were part of a huge community watching the film that night as it was launched simultaneously in countries across the world – from the USA to Australia, from Saskatchewan to Denmark, from New Zealand to Canada, from Germany to the UK. The film presents cutting-edge research that proposes a link between the way in which babies are born and their health and wellbeing later in life. In particular, it puts forward the theory that the increased number of births by caesarean section may explain the epidemic of non-communicable conditions such as asthma, type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease, obesity, cardio-vascular disease, mental health disorders and cancers. The film suggests that when babies are born surgically, their microbiome (the collection of bacteria that resides in our bodies) is not seeded as it should be with their mothers’ bacteria. Three principal ways in which this seeding occurs appear to be via contact with vaginal flora as the baby moves down the birth canal; skin-to-skin contact with the mother at birth, and breastfeeding. Without these early stimuli to the baby’s immune system, that system may develop only partially and thereby compromise the baby’s later ability to resist a variety of diseases.
Following the screening, the audience enthusiastically debated how the messages contained in the film could be transmitted to parents without either frightening them or inducing guilt in women who may have had a caesarean section or been unable to breastfeed. Many of those present felt that the film should be shown again in and around Worcester to ensure that as many people as possible had the chance to learn about this new research. The film is being screened up and down the country until November.