Apparently, “vaginal seeding” is a thing
When we first heard about “vaginal seeding,” we immediately pictured a woman planting seeds in her vagina for… reasons (I mean, weirder things have happened, right?). However, we were way off.
Vaginal seeding is actually a new birthing trend, according to the British Medical Journal, one for mothers who deliver their babies via cesarean section (about 33% of all yearly births in the US). Since these babies do not come in contact with their mom’s vagina, the aim is to recreate the birthing canal environment after they are delivered.
This is achieved by inserting a piece of gauze into a mom’s vagina before her C-section. Once the gauze is saturated with vaginal secretions, it is then removed and kept in a sterile location. After the baby is delivered, the gauze is rubbed on the baby’s face, mouth, eyes, and skin. The goal: to replicate what would happen during a natural birth, so the baby is exposed to its mom’s good bacteria.
Considering that the World Health Organization stated “Caesarean sections should ideally only be undertaken when medically necessary,” that would explain why many want to recreate a natural birth with vaginal seeding.
In addition, according to Trends in Molecular Medicine, researchers discovered that C-section babies were more likely to cope with allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and obesity. Though the researchers still have more questions, they did conclude, “Even if antibiotic use, C-section delivery, and formula feeding are only marginally associated with disease risk at the individual level, the widespread use of these practices in the USA and other countries may contribute to considerable disease burden at the population level.”
Because of studies such as the one above, parents have been getting creative when they’re unable to have a vaginal birth. That’s when vaginal seeding enters the picture.
According to DrOzTheGoodLife.com, there isn’t universal support for this tactic. “The fact that newborns may face better outcomes after vaginal delivery may not have anything to do with [exposure to vaginal bacteria] itself, there’s just not enough data,” explains Dr. Victor González-Quintero. “More importantly, it could put babies at risk. We could be exposing newborns to infections if a mother is asymptomatic or we’ve failed to identify infections like Group B streptococcus, herpes, chlamydia, or gonorrhea during standard prenatal testing.” Overall, Dr. González-Quintero will not recommend vaginal seeding until there is more research proving it’s effective.
As of right now, there’s only one study that connects vaginal seeding with newborn health benefits, but it’s ongoing and doesn’t include moms who could potentially transmit pathogens to their babies.
On the other hand, there are doctors who support vaginal seeding despite a lack of research. Dr. Eden G. Fromberg states, “Given that acquisition of the microbiome during a cesarean delivery has been shown to involve microbial transfer from the skin cells of the operating room personnel rather than from the mother’s vagina, and given that the baby’s immune system is oriented for a lifetime by this earliest exposure, there are tremendous potential benefits to using this vaginal seeding technique for cesarean-born babies.”
Despite the fact that doctors may disagree when it comes to vaginal seeding, it’s still important that one consults their doctor if they’re considering this practice. Since sharing vaginal bacteria with a newborn is a serious matter, mothers must be tested for transferable infections, consider the lack of research that’s available, and discuss this decision with their doctor beforehand.