The ECOBABe Study (Early Colonisation with Bacteria After Birth) is investigating whether babies born by caesarean section can be protected from a greater risk of some conditions, including childhood obesity and asthma, by being given their mothers' bacteria soon after birth.

Babies born by caesarean (c-section) miss out on the normal process of exposure to these bacteria, which happens during a vaginal birth. The bacteria may be an important part of developing babies’ digestive and immune systems. The study is trying to see if mimicking the normal process can help babies born by c-section. Even though it sounds helpful, there is still no evidence that it works, which is why we are doing the study.

Please note, recruitment for this study has finished.

Why is this study important?

There is growing evidence linking c-section to an increased risk of babies later developing obesity and immune disorders, like asthma and diabetes. A recent very large study in the USA found children born by c-section were nearly 25 percent more likely to have childhood obesity than those born vaginally (even after other differences are taken into account). It is possible that the disruption to the normal process of bacterial colonisation is affecting the development of the immune system during this short, but potentially very important, time of transition. Currently, we know there is an association between c-section birth and obesity, but we are still trying to identify what links them. The ECOBABe study is an important step in the journey.

What is this study trying to find out?

The study is trying to find out whether giving c-section babies their mothers’ vaginal bacteria will result in them having similar gut bacteria to those they'd have if they were born vaginally. We will find out whether the bacteria colonise the babies’ gut, if taken orally when mixed in a small volume of sterile water.

The study will measure the range and number of different types of gut bacteria of all the babies by analysing their stools (poo). This will show us whether there are differences in the gut bacteria of c-section born babies given their mother’s bacteria compared to those which get a placebo. We will also see how the c-section babies gut bacteria differ from vaginally born babies. The study will also measure the babies’ weight, height and body fat composition.

How can I find out more?

Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more about the study. Email the research team on or call/text 027 606 5140.