Every single day, new discoveries are made in the world of science and it sometimes turns out that something that has been accepted as fact due to new evidence may in fact no longer be so. A trend called ‘Vaginal Seeding’ had begun to become more common as a number of researchers had theorized that giving a baby born via c-section a swab of vaginal fluid after the procedure could give them a different and possibly beneficial set of gut bacteria.
It is important to note that the researchers had only admitted to a possibility even as we consider the reasons. As babies transit from the womb to the world, it is the first time that they ingest some of the bacteria that will colonize their gut. In the case of a C-section, the babies however miss out on the process of getting some of the mother’s bacteria and instead end up with a different set of bugs, inclusive of some from the hospital environment.
Studies had found that this C-section microbiome could in fact make the child more vulnerable to problems later in life. Although the gut microbiome begins development in the womb, the process actually fully takes off during birth itself when the babies take up bacteria from their mother’s vaginal canal and skin.
Given those considerations, a new trend called vaginal seeding that saw parents eager to protect their newborns following the technique of Dominguez-Bello who conducted a study in Puerto Rico on 21 babies, which is now under peer review, emerged. The process included; removing the baby from mom’s uterus; swabbing the mouth, eyes and skin and placing the baby back on mom’s chest. The procedure was still under study and although most doctors generally agreed with the idea, they often refrained from carrying out the process themselves and rather left it to the father or other relative.
Experts have however warned that the vaginal seeding procedure could be putting the babies at risk of infection. They say that although the demand for the practice is on the rise, there is still no proven health benefit for newborn babies. The experts who wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) have warned that new mothers could be putting their babies at risk of harm, including from group B strep (GBS), which is a serious infection that can lead to death.
Lead author Aubrey Cunnington, a researcher in the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said in a statement: “There is simply no evidence to suggest it has benefits — and it may carry potential risks”. She continued explaining that the potential downside of vaginal seeding was the transfer of harmful bacteria for which the mother may not have been tested or that provoke no symptoms in the mother and thus go undetected.
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