MicroBirth Film Screening in Wichita, KS - October 10, 2014

We are in the midst of the largest experiment in human history, and we are not running a controlled study.” This is the resounding message throughout “MicroBirth”, a 60-minute documentary released worldwide on September 20, 2014 by Alto Films, Ltd. The film is the first of its kind to attempt to take a fresh look at the possible long-term effects of how we give birth – with a microscope.

Wichita Birth Alliance

hosted a

local screening

of MicroBirth on October 10, 2014, featuring a panel discussion afterward with experts in related fields.

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The film opens with a montage of tranquil scenes, while a voice-over reminds us of our belief that we have surely arrived at the golden age of technology. However, it continues, how can it be that at the pinnacle of our existence, we as a species have never been sicker? Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, asthma and allergies are reaching epidemic proportions. In fact, the World Health Organization fears some pretty alarming global consequences if we can't slow the trend: a 17% increase in these diseases by the next decade, and 47 trillion dollars spent on them by 2030. A figure like that means a bankrupt global health system, not to mention shorter lives filled with misery. We all know that a healthy diet, more exercise and quitting smoking are essential to good health, but what if there is another piece to the puzzle that could hold the key to long-term health?

MicroBirth explores these questions about the effects of childbirth and the microbiome on long-term health. Our bodies - walking ecosystems - are 10% mammalian and 90% microbe, and the “friendly flora” provides security and function for our immune system. However, when an ecosystem loses the diversity of its microbes, it gets sick. Our over-reliance on antibiotics is now fairly common knowledge, so the film only briefly mentions its effect on our microbial populations. A number of experts speak on-screen about these issues, including Rodney Dietert, a Cornell professor of immunotoxicology. Believing that our microbial populations are sown during birth, he explains in simple terms the seeding of the microbiome from the mother's vagina, skin and breastmilk – as well as the possible effects of these processes being bypassed. Other experts introduce possible measures to ensure that a cesarean-birthed infant's first experience with bacteria is the proper one.

It's not too late, but it's not too early either”, says Stefan Elbe, director of the Centre for Global Health Policy. He and others strongly reiterate that if how we're born can change the course of human health, we need to take steps now – alert the public, do more science. Although MicroBirth raises more questions than it can provide the answers to, it is a great jumping off point to bringing awareness to the foundation of the microbiome and get more parents and birth workers interested in preserving it. For such a big topic, with so many possibilities for tangents – such as the subject of epigenetics - I would have liked to see a film longer than 60 minutes. However, I respect the filmmakers' desire to focus strongly on this one topic since it's lesser-known.

Our panel discussion gave an opportunity for the viewers to engage with Dr. Betty Elder, PhD, RN, an associate professor of nursing at Wichita State University with an interest in epigenetics, and Sharon Foster, APRN, CNM, a certified nurse-midwife for 15 years. Both had great thoughts to share, including Dr. Elder's belief that we should be looking at not just cesareans but all technologies used in birth for their effects on the long-term health of the children, and Ms. Foster's experience with our local hospitals moving in a direction that is more supportive of healthy practices such as skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and delayed bathing of infants. Marcia Streiff, APRN, CNM, IBCLC chimed in with an important tidbit for expectant parents to remember: “Consumer demand is what changes things in our institutions.”

If you missed the premiere screening here or in your area, you can still get a chance to watch the film for yourself – check out the

MicroBirth website

to rent or buy it for streaming online or to purchase the DVD for educational purposes. You'll also find a science FAQ and a recommended reading list.

What we don't know is bigger than what we do know.” - Dr. Betty Elder

Did you watch MicroBirth? What were your thoughts?

Source: New feed