The Science

At MothersBabies, we commission and fund research and studies into the exciting new frontier of health and medicine – the gut microbiome.

Meet the experts

Brittany Darling

Brittany Darling

Brittany Darling is an accredited practicing Nutritionist and Herbalist with a special interest in fertility, pregnancy, IVF support, postnatal and children’s health.

Professor Hannah Dahlan

Hannah Dahlen is a Professor of Midwifery, Associate Dean of Research and HDR and Midwifery Discipline Lead in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University.
Dr Kirsten Palmer

Dr Kirsten Palmer

Dr Kirsten Palmer has worked in General Practice since 1992. She is passionate about health and works to encourage people to make good and healthy lifestyle choices at any stage throughout their life.
Dr Steven Leach

Dr Steven Leach

Dr Steven Leach is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in the School of Clinical Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, UNSW with a special interest in infant and childhood microbiome development.
Dr Daniella Susic

Dr Dani Susic

Dr Dani Susic is an Obstetrician, Gynecologist and microbiome researcher who specialises in care for pregnancies that are both uncomplicated and complicated. She is experienced in managing high-risk pregnancies and providing tailored care to women following previous traumatic events.

Elle Halliwell

Elle Halliwell is an Australian writer, entrepreneur and wellness advocate. In 2016 Elle’s life changed forever when in the space of 48 hours she was diagnosed with incurable cancer and discovered she was pregnant with her first child.
Leah Hechtman

Leah Hechtman

Leah is an experienced and respected clinician who specialises in fertility, infertility and pregnancy care. Her primary passion is her clinical practice where she is inspired and humbled by her patients. She loves supporting people to reach their individual health goals and improve their quality of life.

Mathew Evans

Matthew Evans

Matthew Evans is a chef and food critic turned farmer-food activist. Matthew has authored and co-authored 13 books on food and nutrition and is regularly interviewed on the radio about all things to do with farming, growing, soil, nutrition and eating.

Meet the presenters

Kristy Mcsweeny

Kristy McSweeney

Kristy McSweeney is a journalist, media commentator and the owner of a public affairs firm. She has worked in government roles, as advisors to ministers and premiers, as well as a regular commentator on Sky News.

Elle Halliwell

Elle Halliwell is a writer, entrepreneur and wellness advocate. She has fostered a successful career in showbiz, reporting entertainment and lifestyle news via the likes of The Sunday Telegraph, Nova Entertainment and Channel Nine.

Watch two panel discussions with our experts

The below videos are from a round table discussion held recently where experts in the field share important information about guy health and microbiome science.

Play Video about Microbiome Science Panel


Learn about the microbiome and the important impact it has on the health of your baby.

Play Video about Microbiome Research Panel


As the round table continues, we hear about what you can do to make the biggest impact.

Watch individual interviews with the experts


In this interview, Dr Susic talks about research in the microbiome field and what women can do to optimise the microbiome of their baby.


Steven discusses how a newborn baby’s microbiome ‘teaches’ it’s immune system for lifetime protection against inflammation and disease. He also talks about the importance of things like breastfeeding to support your baby’s microbiome.


Leah speaks about what couples can do to optimise their microbiomes for fertility and baby health.


Watch to hear Matthew speak about the importance of soil and bringing things back to basics to optimise your microbiome.


In this interview Brittany talks about the importance of diet and nutrition on the microbiome and what advice she gives her clients wanting to improve fertility.

Learn valuable and educational information from our experts about the science behind a healthy future for both mothers and babies.

Some simple statistics demonstrate the magnitude of the problem

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In 2016 it was 8.6%, up from an average of 7%

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Food allergies

Food allergies affect 1:20 in children

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Asthma affects 1:9 Australians

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7.8% diagnosed in 2003, 9.5% in 2007, 11% in 2011

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Spectrum disorders

2.46% of children aged 10-14

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Overweight and Obesity

1:4 children and 2:3 adults and increasing

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Mental health

Anxiety 1:4 and depression 1:7 in adults

Explore our topics

1. I want the power to decide

‘I decide I have the power to decide and that I want to learn more about making powerful decisions on the journey from “fertility’ to ” maybe-a-baby’

2. I am curious about my fertility

‘I’m pretty sure I want to have a baby one day, not right now or even soon, but right now I’d like to understand my fertility’

3. I’m interested in my gut health

‘I decide to learn about the importance of my gut health and my microbiome on the fertility journey to ‘maybe-a-baby’

4. I am planning on having a baby

‘I decide to actively prepare for pregnancy and to adjust my preconception diet’

5. I want a powerful pregnancy

‘I acknowledge my power in my pregnancy’

6. I’m thinking about my birth plan

‘I would like to understand how my birth decisions impact my health, and the health of my baby’

7. My newborn and breastfeeding

‘I decide to understand the newborn phase, and the importance of breast milk for my baby’s developing immune system’

8. Introducing solids

‘I decide to understand the impact on gut health of the introduction of solids to my baby’

9. Looking after me

This module is for all the new (and not-so-new!) parents out there who might be feeling a bit worn out, run-down and like they give all their energy to their newborn child.

10. Looking after our family

‘I choose a healthy environment for myself, my baby and our family’

Groundbreaking research on the microbiome in mothers and babies

Imagine, if by better understanding the way your body works, you could avoid many diseases that are becoming increasingly common in women and newborn babies. Diseases such as:

The most common serious medical disorder of human pregnancy. Particularly in their first pregnancy, pregnant women can suffer from high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction leading to leakage of protein into the urine, swelling of hands, feet and face, and, in severe cases, dizziness, headaches and difficulties with vision.

Source: The Royal Women’s Hospital

Gestational diabetes is characterised by glucose intolerance of varying severity that develops or is first recognised during pregnancy, mostly in the second or third trimester. It usually resolves after the baby is born, but can recur in later pregnancies and significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life, both for the mother and the baby.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

A baby born before the 37th week is known as a premature or pre-term baby. Medical advances have meant that more than 9 out of 10 premature babies survive, and most go on to develop normally. In Australia, almost 1 in every 10 babies is born prematurely. Most Australian premature babies are born between 32 and 36 weeks and don’t have any serious long-term problems.

Source: Pregnancy, Birth & Baby

Asthma is a long-term lung condition of the airways (the passage that transports air into our lungs).  At the moment, there is no cure, but it can be managed. About half of Australian women with asthma find their asthma gets a bit worse during pregnancy, often between 17 and 36 weeks gestation.

Source: Asthma Australia

Research suggests links between autism and factors in pregnancy such as:

• The Mother’s diet.

• The medicines she takes.

• Mental health.

• Immunity.

• Metabolic conditions, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

Source: Spectrum News

An irritation of the skin, causing redness, itching, and sometimes infections. Research suggests that inherited factors increase the likelihood of eczema. Up to 30% of infants with eczema, or with a family history of allergy, will develop food allergy, and up to 40% develop asthma and/or hay fever.

Source: Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy

At MothersBabies, we commission and fund research and studies into the exciting new frontier of health and medicine – the gut microbiome.

We see gut health in pre-pregnancy, and the first 1000 days from getting pregnant, as a wonderful opportunity to give your baby the best start in life.

From conception to pregnancy, birth and the first couple of years (the first ‘1,000 days’), the trillions of bacteria, viruses, yeasts and fungi to which your baby is exposed, in and outside the womb, can contribute to health or illness.

Difficulty conceiving, miscarriage, premature birth, childhood ailments such as eczema and allergy can all be related to dysbiosis (typified by an imbalance in the microbial community). 

In fact, microbes have an important role in the programming and education of, for example, your baby’s immune system and metabolism. And while it’s hard to imagine, their journey into adulthood may also encounter such issues as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease as a consequence of their early life microbial exposure and programming. Mothers too may face complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

Get involved

There are many ways you can get involved in changing the health future of mothers and their babies.