Experts have warned mothers against the controversial trend of vaginal seeding or microbirthing for newborn babies.
Imperial College London’s senior lecturer, Aubrey Cunnington, said the practice sees the exposure of cesarean born babies to the same bacteria that vaginal born babies are exposed to in the birth canal.
“Babies born by cesarean sections miss out on some of this natural goodness. Instead, they are mainly colonised by skin microbes, a very different set of species,”he said. “This difference in microbiota is said to be still measurable months and possibly even years after birth. This is where the idea of ‘vaginal seeding’ comes into play, to try and correct that balance and restore some of the good bacteria to the baby.”
Vaginal seeding or microbirthing involves taking a swab from the mother’s vagina and rubbing it over the baby’s mouth, face and skin after birth. The practice aims to boost the gut bacteria of the newborn and reduce the risk of allergies or obesity.
Mr Cunnington has published a report in The British Medical Journal that says that while changing the composition of microbiota can prevent disease, the evidence does not yet show that vaginal seeding is beneficial. He argues that it can in fact, lead to severe infections for newborns.
“Many countries (including the United Kingdom and Australia) do not screen all women for these pathogens in pregnancy, and with 20-30 per cent of pregnant women carrying group B streptococcus, vaginal seeding could result in many unintended neonatal exposures,” he said. “We have already needed to intervene to prevent vaginal seeding from a woman with genital herpes, and we expect trouble if the procedure gains wide popularity.”
As a result, the British Medical Journal has advised health professionals not to perform the practice, as the evidence of potential risks for the baby outweigh any health benefits that may be gained.
“Of course, this may change in the future if evidence emerges to show clear health benefits of vaginal seeding. But at the moment the jury remains out on whether vaginal seeding actually does more harm than good.”
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