68: The Miracle of Microbirth: What Every Mother Should Know

68: The Miracle of Microbirth: What Every Mother Should Know

00:00 / 01:20:52

Microbirthand Your Baby’s Microbiomewith Toni Harman

Birth. There can be no doubt it’s one of life’s most personal, miraculous, and yet nerve-wracking events. And now thanks to new research in the last few years and a film called Microbirth, we’re discovering even more about the fascinating science behind it.

My guest is Toni Harman, documentary filmmaker turned birth warrior turned author. A graduate of Exeter University and London Film School, she took her extensive Hollywood filmmaking experience to the subject of microbirth, which entered her life in an unexpected and deeply personal way.

I’m sure so many of us can relate to her story … of a birth that didn’t go as planned.

How Microbirth Was Born

Toni can trace it all back to the birth of her daughter, Willow. As many first-time moms do, she envisioned a peaceful natural birth with scented candles and soft music. She wrote up a birth plan and packed it in her hospital bad, expecting it to be followed … or at least consulted.

But at the hospital, nothing happened as planned. No one asked her about her choices. The birth plan never made it out of her bag.

Toni underwent an emergency C-section, and struggled to breastfeed as she had wanted. Despite the incredible blessing of a healthy baby girl, she left the hospital with a whole new set of questions and a sense of uneasiness.

What had gone wrong? Why wasn’t she asked what she wanted? Why, mixed in with all the miraculous moments, did she have a feeling of … trauma?

She wondered: What was the real story behind how women are experiencing birth today?

At the time she didn’t know about birth pioneers like Ina May Gaskin, Michael Oden, and Elizabeth Davis. She certainly didn’t know anything about microbirth or what that meant for future health. But as a filmmaker, Toni knew one way to get answers to her questions: she got out there and started asking them.

And so the revolutionary film Microbirth was born.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn

  • the surprising discoveries researchers are making about the microbial aspect of birth
  • how birth sets a baby’s gut health … and why it matters for a lifetime
  • simple ways to build up mom’s gut health during pregnancy
  • the impact of vaginal vs. C-section birth on bacterial “seeding”
  • why a “dirty” blanket from home should be in your hospital bag!
  • what the composition of breastmilk does for baby’s gut health
  • a surprising new technique that might improve C-section outcomes (and give mom and dad a sense of control)
  • what to say and do if your doctor won’t listen, and how to find the support you need
  • how to make peace with yourself when things go “wrong”
  • the age when baby’s microbiome stabilizes and what to do until then

The Healing Microbirth Message

I couldn’t agree more with Toni that we need to talk about birth choices with more openness and less judgment. I have, after all, experienced 6 births that ran the gamut from peaceful to nearly traumatic. And as a doula, I’ve seen other moms deal with the unexpected too.

We mothers get so many mixed messages about the “right” way to have a baby, which is laughable when you think about how many variables come into play during birth!

The Microbirth message is simple and so important: be informed, and you’ll be empowered to make the best choices with the hand you’re dealt.

I’m doing all I can to spread the word about this amazing film, and now Toni has a new book out on microbirth as well!

Your turn: Can you identify with Toni’s story? What do you think about the birthing options women have today? Please share in the comments!

Resources We Mention


Toni Harman, Your Baby’s Microbiome: The Critical Role of Vaginal Birth and Breastfeeding for Lifelong Health (2017)


A Probiotic Life (in development)

Microbirth (2014)

Freedom for Birth (2012)

Doula (2010)

For more on Toni’s work, check out her movement One World Birth:

Special Thanks to Today’s Sponsors:

This podcast episode is brought to you by Perfect Supplements. If your family struggles with the taste of certain nutrient-dense foods like liver or kale, Perfect Supplements is the answer. They concentrate superfoods in capsule form so you can get all of the benefits without cooking something no one will eat.

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Reader Interactions

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Reader Comments

  1. The hippies were right again! Vaginal birth, rubbing in the stuff babies are born with on their skin, breastfeeding, cosleeping, wearing your baby…all contribute to lots of gut flora growth. Let em eat dirt sometimes too…
    Interesting to see another go-round of babyfirst child raising.

  2. Thank you, I enjoyed the podcast. I was wondering your thoughts on babies who are born partially in the amniotic sac. My son was born and the sac ruptured just as he came out. I now wonder if the fact that the sac did not rupture sooner has a negative effect on the microbiome. I had a totally natural birth, did skin to skin, have pets, ate healthy, exercised, and breastfeed right away. I know there is no research, but was interested in your opinion. Thank you.

    • I’ve wondered this too, but since he still passed through the birth canal, he likely still got the bacterial transfer and it sounds like you did everything else to optimize his early life too 🙂

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