New research suggests babies born by caesarean section and not breastfed could be at higher risk for developing chronic illnesses later in life.

A new research paper suggests the development of gut bacteria can be crucial to a child’s immune system.

Dr. Meghan Azad from the Manitoba Institute of Child Health is one of those who worked on the paper.

"So, during a vaginal birth an infant is exposed to its mother's vaginal and gut bacteria, but if an infant is born by C-section this is prevented or eliminated,” said Azad.

Researchers found that may lead to lifelong health problems, such as asthma, severe allergies or cancer.

“We know that gut bacteria are really important for many aspects of health and one of those things is training the immune system to understand what it is OK to respond to and what it isn't,” said Azad.

More than 1,000 Manitoba families are among those participating in the nation-wide study on children’s health.

Kristy Wittmeier, a study participant, said she was caught off guard by the research’s findings.

"Surprising that there was an association between the change in gut bacteria with the C-section. That's something I wouldn't have anticipated,” said Wittmeier.

Dr. Azad hopes the results of the study are considered by prospective parents.

“More and more often women are choosing C-sections as an elective procedure and we think having them know about these potential effects involving gut bacteria may help them reconsider making that choice,” said Azad.

Azad said breastfeeding also plays a role in developing gut bacteria.

The families involved in the research have agreed to participate in the study for five years and researchers hope to release more papers in upcoming years.