Vaginal seeding is something you may not have heard of, and yet, health experts say that the practice is rising exponentially in popularity.
So what is vaginal seeding? Essentially, it is the process of swabbing a mothers vagina after she has given birth and then wiping the swab inside the newborn’s mouth, as well as its eyes, face, and skin after a cesarean birth. The idea is that the practice of vaginal seeding will bring the newborn into contact with the natural bacteria that is present in the birth canal. Vaginal seeding is believe by many to increase or “boost” the gut bacteria in newborns. That, in turn, is believed to possibly safeguard the newborn against the risk of acquiring certain allergies and may even stave off obesity.
However, experts are extremely skeptical when it comes to the topic of vaginal seeding. Health officials commented on the practice in a recent report in the British Medical Journal in which a lack of concrete scientific evidence was cited to endorse vaginal seeding.
In fact, some health experts are now stating that vaginal seeding may not only hold any health benefits, but it may in turn actually harm the newborn. The reasons they give are that babies that are born via cesarean section births are biologically different than vaginally birthed children from the get-go. Health officials state that children born via cesarean section actually have a fundamentally different set of microbiome – the particular kinds of millions of bacteria that are present in the belly – than children that are born vaginally. Consequently, when vaginal seeding is performed on children that are born via cesarean section, the child receiving the vaginal bacteria could be at risk.
An honorary consultant in pediatric infectious diseases at Imperial College in London, Aubrey Cunnington, who co-authored the report in the British Medical Journal, stated his concerns succinctly.
“Demand for this process has increased among women attending hospitals in the UK – but this has outstripped professional awareness and guidance. There is simply no evidence to suggest it has benefits – and it may carry potential risks.”
Of course, the differences between children born vaginally and those born via cesarean section are precisely the reason why many parents are interested in the possible health benefits of vaginal seeding. Children who are born via cesarean section have been found to have slightly higher chances of developing allergies, certain autoimmune diseases, and obesity. It is precisely for these reasons that parents are buying into vaginal seeding.
Cunnington stated that the idea of vaginal seeding basically amounts to a wives tale.
“People have made a leap of logic that gut bacteria must be the link between caesarean section and risk of these diseases, but we just don’t know this for sure – or whether we can even influence this by transferring bacteria on a swab from mum to baby. Doctors, nurses, midwives and parents need to be aware they are doing something with a potential risk that currently doesn’t have any evidence of benefit.”
The current number of cesarean section births in the United Kingdom is right around 25 percent, whereas in the United States it is almost a third of all births. What’s the reason for the increase in cesarean section births? Doctors think that a large part of it is that women in the industrialized world are now waiting longer to have children. The later a woman waits, the more complications that can arise, often causing the need for a cesarean birth.
In the end, the benefits and possible hazards of vaginal seeding need to be weighed by the child’s parents before proceeding. Experts are currently advising things like breast feeding and the avoidance of unnecessary antibiotics as much better alternatives to the possible benefits of vaginal seeding.
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