What is vaginal seeding?

Vaginal seeding has been in the news lately due to a recently published report by Danish doctors.

vaginal-seeding

Pregnancy blog, 31/08/2017

What is vaginal seeding?

Vaginal seeding involves wiping vaginal fluid onto the skin of a baby born by caesarean section.

The technique is intended to recreate the natural transfer of bacteria from the mother that the baby gets during a vaginal birth.

It involves the mother placing swabs into her vagina, and then wiping them onto the baby’s face and body after the caesarean birth.

Why is it done?

Babies born by caesarean section are at a slightly higher risk of inflammatory diseases such as asthma and allergies. Some scientists think that the reason for this could be because these babies don’t come into contact with the vaginal bacteria transferred during a natural birth.

However, the technique has only been tested on four babies so far and there is a risk that babies might get a serious infection from the bacteria such as early onset neonatal sepsis.

Why is it in the news?

This week a group of Danish doctors published a report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology about vaginal seeding.

Their report stated that as many as 90% of Danish obstetricians and gynaecologists have been asked about it by parents, even though very little research has been done on the technique.  

They found no substantial evidence of the benefits, but did highlight the risk of the mother passing infections on to the baby.

Since the report was published earlier this week, a number of experts have spoken out against the emerging trend.

What is the conclusion?

In their report, the Danish doctors conclude that the supposed benefits of vaginal seeding ‘do not outweigh the potential risks,’ even through the risk is ‘probably very low.’  They go on to say that other factors such as early skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and diet seem more important for baby’s development than using the vaginal seeding technique.

Dr Patrick O'Brien, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says,

‘There is no robust evidence to suggest that vaginal seeding has any associated benefits.

‘We would therefore not recommend it until more definitive research shows that it is not harmful and can in fact improve a child's digestive and/or immune system.’

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