Vaginal seeding may be risky say experts

A new trend has emerged among mothers who have just given birth by caesarean sections. IT is called “vaginal seeding”.

This is a process by which a baby born normally (via the vaginal canal) would be exposed to certain microorganisms present in the mother’s vagina canal.

The process of “seeding” artificially exposes the baby to these microbes that it would encounter if born normally.

Now according to latest research from Danish obstetricians, this could do “more harm than good”. Other doctors including those at UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have also warned against this practice.

The study was published in the journal BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

All the mucosal surfaces of the body including the gut, mouth, vagina and genitalia are packed with helpful microorganisms called commensals. They have been found to be protective against several infectious and non-infectious diseases.

There have been studies that connect lack of a healthy microbial environment within the mucosal surfaces could be connected to several ailments including the non-infectious ones such as eczema, asthma, heart disease etc.

In order to achieve the healthy microbial exposure in babies who are surgically born and not exposed to the mother’s vaginal canal, the seeding practice was developed.

A sterile swab is incubated within the mother’s vagina and after the baby is born, he or she is wiped down especially over their faces, eyes and mouths with that swab in this bizarre sounding process.

This trend is also called “microbirthing” and has really caught on among mothers. It is believed that this method could jumpstart the baby’s immune system and lowers the risk of allergies.

In this new report experts have warned that this practice could lead to serious and life threatening infections in the newborn.

There is little evidence that this provides any benefit they add. The report says that over 90 percent of the Danish obstetricians have been asked for information regarding vaginal seeding.

They add that there has been only a single study involving just four babies, that has looked at the benefits of this process. This is a very small sample on which such a conclusion can be based upon explain the researchers.

This latest analysis has shown that seeding after birth has the risk of passing on deadly infectious organisms to the baby including Group B streptococcus, E. coli and sexually transmitted infections.

According to Dr Tine Dalsgaard Clausen, author of the report and obstetrician at Nordsjaellands Hospital in Denmark, there is no concrete evidence at present to support the claim that this method benefits the babies.

More and longer term studies are needed to prove those benefits. Safely controlled clinical trials that would not put babies at risk could be planned by researchers in future to assess the potential benefits of this process. As of now the risks outweigh the benefits proposed Clausen said.

On a more optimistic note, Clausen advises that lowering the rates of caesarean sections was a better goal to be achieved.

At present one fourth of all babies are born via caesarean section in UK. Also early “skin to skin” contact of mother and babies is a much better way in which the babies can benefit she adds.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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