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I’m really excited about bringing you this episode because today I’m chatting to specialist birth film maker and authorToni Harman.


Toni Harman is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her credits include DOULA! a documentary about doulas (2010, 60 mins), FREEDOM FOR BIRTH a documentary about human rights in childbirth (2012, 60 mins). Her last film MICROBIRTH (60 mins, 2014) about how birth impacts a baby’s lifelong health – won the top prize, the Grand Prix Award, at the Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague.

Toni is the co-author of the book, The Microbiome Effect, How Your Baby’s Birth Affects Their Future Health, published by Pinter and Martin, which explores birth in a whole new way; through the lens of a microscope.

Here is the trailer for the film Microbirth

YouTube video

I originally got in touch with Toni because of a personal question. I’d read a lot about the microbiome and how the seeding of bacteria within babies is affected by their birth, probably because of all the hype around her film! Anyhow, my baby was born en-caul and so I was curious as to how that might have affected my baby’s microbiome. So after a lengthy web search, a someone in a Facebook group suggested that I check out the film. I thought I’d go one-step further and get in touch with the director and instead invite them onto the podcast. And so here we are!

When I got in touch with Toni, I didn’t realise what a birth specialist she was though, so it turned into a real goldmine discovery. Before we started recording we had a fabulous chat about all kinds of lovely birth and pregnancy things.

Microbiome and birth

When we eventually got round to pressing record, here are some of the things we talked about;

  • what the microbiome and why we should care about it
  • the possible health implications of babies missing out on bacterial seeding
  • the various ways that babies receive their microbiome
  • how we can boost our levels of good bacteria when we’re pregnant
  • what we can do to support babies born en-caul in terms of microbiome
  • what we can do post birth to create optimal conditions for the good bacteria to flourish
  • the difference between pre and pro biotics, and the role they play in our bacterial life
  • why we need to think positively about the presence of poo during birth
  • the need for research into the long-term impact and health implications for many birth interventions used today

Toni’s next project is A Probiotic Life which you can find out more about here

YouTube video

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Alexia Leachman
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