Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies


Holistic Health

First Advisor

Carol Geisler


Holistic Health Studies


The critical window of infant gut microbiome development (IGMD) is preconception through three years of age. The improper development of the infant gut microbiome contributes to the rise of chronic illness. The literature provides no evidence that prenatal care practitioners educate patients about the critical window of IGMD. The purpose of this empirical study is to investigate knowledge of prenatal care practitioners (obstetrical and gynecological physicians, nurse practitioners, midwives, and doulas) about IGMD and how they use this knowledge in their practices. Seventy-eight registered prenatal care practitioners from Minnesota participated in an online survey consisting of 18 qualitative and quantitative questions. The researchers used descriptive statistics and summative content analysis to answer two aims: to describe prenatal care practitioners’ breadth of knowledge about IGMD and to describe how prenatal care practitioners apply information about IGMD with their patients. Some participants (32%) report having knowledge about the critical window of IGMD. Forty-one percent of participants do not educate their patients about the critical window of IGMD. These findings suggest most prenatal care practitioners are not knowledgeable about the critical window; therefore, they do not educate their patients. Replicating and improving upon this pilot study will increase understanding of how practitioners’ knowledge and how patient education can influence optimal development of the infant gut microbiome to reduce the rise of chronic illness.