What is vaginal seeding and why is it growing in popularity?
Vaginal seeding might sound like some sort of sexual gardening adventure...
…but it’s actually a birthing trend that’s growing in popularity.
While experts say more research is needed in relation to the method, here is what we know about it so far:
What is it?
It's a practice whereby a mother who has given birth via C-section takes swabs of her vaginal fluid and applies it to the face, body and mouth of their baby almost immediately after the birth. It originated in Australia but is apparently growing in popularity in the US.
When a baby is delivered vaginally, it is exposed to hundreds of bacteria from the mother whilst a baby born via C-section isn’t.
Some experts argue that this difference can actually affect the long-term health of the newborn because this first exposure helps the immune system to recognise between friendly and potentially damaging bacteria. (Please note, this has not been proven outright).
What does it do?
It is suggested that babies born via C-section have a slightly higher risk (than vaginally-born babies) of developing immune and metabolic disorders including allergies, asthma.
A study, the findings of which were published in Nature Medicine, claims that vaginal seeding is a way to transfer the mother’s beneficial microbes from her vagina to her child thereby helping to boost immunity.
The experiment reportedly found that the procedure of vaginal swabbing did "partially" restore the microbes that a baby born via C-section misses out on.
Is it safe?
Thus far, swabbing has been found to be entirely safe however it is not recommended by professional or medical organisations as yet and it is important to make sure that the mother is not carrying any harmful bacteria.
OB-GYN physician and medical journalist Jennifer Conti also wrote on Slate that the results of the study “are not so clear” and that “there are several scenarios wherein it may actually cause harm to the baby.” One such scenario is if the mother is Group B strep positive as this bacteria is linked to both meningitis and sepsis.
Other medical experts in the UK have expressed concerns over the safety of this procedure. They also say that vaginal bacteria can actually cause infections and more research into the practice (both benefits and risks) is needed.
Can you get it done?
Professional and medical organisations are not yet recommending it as more research is needed to see if there are indeed benefits to it.
In Australia, some doctors have been willing to go along with a patient's wishes to carry out vaginal seeding whilst others do not endorse it nor have protocols in place to enable it.
Further studies are needed and it will take years before there is any clear evidence to support the argument that vaginal seeding helps to strengthen the immune system of babies born via C-section.
It is also noted that all births are different and antibiotics also play a role in the development of the immune system in babies.