Experts say there is no medical evidence for ‘vaginal seeding’ of c-section babies.
In recent years we have seen a significant increase in vaginal seeding of babies born via c-section but experts are now saying there is no medical evidence to support the practice.
Seeding, or micro-birthing, refers to the practice of swabbing a newborn baby with gauze which has absorbed the mother’s vaginal fluid. The aim is to boost immunity and decrease the likelihood of developing illnesses like asthma and allergies.
Usually the mother inserts a gauze swab into her vagina immediately prior to the birth of a baby and then after the caesarian section has been performed, the gauze is used to swab the newborns eyes, mouth and face.
It is thought that the practice of seeding originated after research found evidence of differing gut bacteria in newborns depending on the type of birth. Some suggested that the reasoning for this could be that while making it’s way down the birth canal, a baby ingests some of the good bacteria from it’s mother. Obviously babies who are born via c-section do not move through the birth canal and therefore miss out on the transfer of bacteria.
However, experts writing for the British Medical Journal say that perhaps we have jumped to incorrect conclusions about seeding and say that there is ‘ no evidence of benefit’ in the trend. In fact mother’s who chose to seed their babies may actually be putting them at more risk of further serious infection.
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Dr Aubrey Cunnington, a clinical senior lecturer from Imperial College London, Dr Aniko Deierl, a consultant neonatologist at St Mary’s hospital, London and Dr Eimear Brannigan, a consultant in infectious diseases and infection prevention and control at Charing Cross hospital, London, say that they have noted an increase in patients requesting to seed babies which has “has outstripped both professional awareness and professional guidance on this practice”.
They noted that evidence does support babies born via c-section having different gut environments but say “ people have made a leap of logic that gut bacteria must be the link between caesarean section and risk of these diseases. But we just don’t know this for sure – or whether we can even influence this by transferring bacteria on a swab from mum to baby.”
As well as transferring some beneficial bacteria to a newborn, the practice of seeding increases the likelihood of transferring other unwanted bacteria to the baby. In particular Cunningham, Deierl and Brannigan raise the concern of group b strep transfer, a bacteria thought to be present in approximately a quarter of all pregnant women. Strep B, left untreated can cause severe infection and even death. In Australia, pregnant women are routinely tested for the condition and if positive, given treatment at birth to prevent the transfer to the baby but routine screening is not the case elsewhere.
The experts also point out that seeding may also expose babies to diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes simplex, most of which a mother would not know she is carrying because she experiences no symptoms.