Promoting healthy gut bacteria in babies born by caesarean section: The PROMESA study

Tommy’s researchers are studying whether a probiotic supplement can promote the development of a healthy mixture of bacteria in breastfed babies born by caesarean section.
  • Author's list

    Mr Paul Seed, Dr Annette Briley, Prof Rachel Tribe, Dr Helena Watson, Ms Niamh Kelly, Ms Sarah Kheirallah, Ms Lucy McMillan

Start: September 2017

End: August 2021

Why do we need this research?

Good bacteria in our gut helps us digest food and get nutrition throughout life. The type of bacteria in a baby’s gut also influences how its immune system develops.

When babies are born vaginally, they come into contact with their mother’s vaginal and rectal bacteria, which helps them to build up good bacteria in their gut (microbiome). However, during caesarean deliveries, babies don’t come into contact with this ‘friendly’ gut bacteria. With the numbers of caesarean deliveries increasing, we need to find ways to ensure that babies get the gut bacteria that they need for a healthy start to life.

What’s happening in this project?

Breastfeeding is known to help develop ‘friendly’ gut bacteria, as special sugars in breastmilk help the bacteria grow. In our PROMESA study, our researchers are testing whether a probiotic supplement containing these bacteria might help babies born by caesarean section.

Babies will be given this probiotic supplement for 28 days (or a placebo). The mothers will also be given specialist support to help them breastfeed for until the baby is weaned at six months. Our researchers will test stool samples from the babies to see if their gut contains the friendly bacteria that they need. The babies will then have regular follow-up visits to assess their gut health until they are two years’ old.

In a separate part of the study, our researchers will also assess what effect the probiotic supplement have on the babies’ immune systems.

What difference will this project make?

This project will find out whether probiotic supplements for babies born by caesarean section helps them get the friendly gut bacteria they need, and what effect that has on their immune systems. Our researchers hope this will make sure these babies get the best possible start in life.

Get our research updates

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.