Heard about Vaginal Seeding?

Millions of microbiome play a significant role in the health and overall wellbeing of an individual. We inherit our gut health when we are in the mother’s womb and build it up from there. A recent study has piqued interest to understand if there are any health benefits of children born through the birth canal and children born y C-section. While it is yet to be ascertained about the health benefits there is a strong belief that children birthed through the vaginal canal are benefited by the bacteria that the baby is swathed while being born. The argument is that the human body produces enough good bacteria to support the life of the baby and children born through the vaginal canal receive it unlike the children born by C-Section.

What is Vaginal Seeding?

Though a recent practice, there is an existing practise called “vaginal seeding”, whereby babies that are delivered via Cesarean Section are immediately swabbed with the vaginal fluids of the mother. This practice is believed to provide C-section babies with the natural transfer of healthy microbes from the mother to the baby. Some studies have suggested that this process helps to protect the baby from developing allergies and asthma.

A study was published in the Journal Nature Medicine that tried to discover whether it’s possible to mould the microbiome of a C-section baby to have the biome composition of a baby delivered through the vaginal canal.

This study followed a small sample of 18 babies of which seven were born vaginally and 11 were delivered by C-section. Of the 11 C-section babies, four were the recipients of vaginal seeding. When checked after 30 days, the four C-section babies who experienced vaginal seeding had similar microbiomes like the babies born vaginally. When published, these results immediately caught the public interest.

The Process of Vaginal Seeding

The objective of this technique is to mimic the microbe transfer that usually occurs during a natural vaginal birth. Vaginal fluids are collected from the mother using gauze swabs – and are rubbed onto the baby’s face and body after the birth has taken place. As Cesarean babies are more likely to develop asthma, many scientists/doctors propounded the practice of vaginal seeding. There is little research to support this hypothesis.

Is Vaginal Seeding safe? What do health professionals say?

Recent studies from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published in 2017 state that there is not enough evidence to support the practice. They also say that this process is actually unsafe and unnecessary. A comprehensive and scientific review of this practice has discovered that vaginal seeding can actually lead to serious and deadly infections. In the absolute worst case, sepsis can also occur – leading to amputation or death. Thorough research conducted in this area has discovered that health problems suffered by caesarean babies are mainly due to the antibiotics that are given to pregnant women before a c-section surgery instead of a lack of exposure to vaginal microbes.

The Risks of Vaginal Seeding

Vaginal seeding carries with itself a massive risk of infections. The worst case scenario is the contraction of early-onset neonatal sepsis, which is a very serious condition with dire consequences. This infection is very common in premature babies – and can occur in full-term c-section babies too if vaginal seeding is practiced. It generally occurs due to the transfer of some harmful microbes such as E. coli and Group B Streptococcus.

There is also a concern that vaginal infections and other diseases can be passed onto a healthy child due to this unscientific practice. The hypothesis behind vaginal seeding is very interesting, but research has shown that there are no significant benefits to the baby’s health if this practice is followed. The risks that present themselves due to this procedure are very serious and represent a much greater concern than the development of asthma, allergies, etc.

What Is the Bottom Line?

The bottom line, therefore, is that vaginal seeding is unfounded and possibly dangerous – and thus should not be performed at any costs. The best way to develop a baby’s healthy immune system and transfer good bacteria is by practicing breastfeeding and good hygiene. There have been many validated research studies that show that breastfeeding is the most efficient way to provide a c-section baby with the good bacteria they need.

What Should Expectant Mothers Do?

According to advice given by leading obstetricians and scientists, the best way to promote the health of the mother and the baby is to practice a very healthy lifestyle. Doctors also ask expecting mothers to opt out of c-sections if there is no significant need to have one. It is also very important to have early skin-to-skin contact as well. Last but not least, breastfeeding is also an important task.

The development of a fully functioning microbiome in children is very important but it is not a good idea to mimic nature directly. Instead of swabbing the child with potentially harmful fluids, it is a much better idea to get early skin-on-skin contact. By breastfeeding the child, the biome can also be developed quite easily. Even though asthma and rhinitis are risky, these conditions are minor and can be managed with relative ease and alacrity.

While this is a new area of interest, we can be sure that we have not heard the last of this yet as many studies are underway.  If you are interested to know more what would be the correct procedure for your baby, we recommend you to consult your doctor before taking an informed decision.

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