- Why It's Done
- How It's Done
- Does It Work?
- What Are the Risks?
- Safer Alternatives
Seeding after birth, or vaginal seeding, is a birthing trend that involves swabbing the mother’s vaginal discharge on babies born via C-section. It’s a controversial practice, and most experts are against it.
Why is vaginal seeding done after a C-section?
Vaginal seeding began after a team of researchers discovered that the microbiome composition of babies born by cesarean delivery was significantly different from babies born by vaginal delivery.
Studies have shown that babies born by C-section are more likely to have allergies, hay fever, and asthma. About 60% of children are born through cesarean delivery in developed countries, and these countries also have increasing numbers of chronic and autoimmune diseases. Gut microbiota and immunity are believed to play a key role in the development of these diseases.
This has led to speculation that C-section births may be hampering the natural process of a baby acquiring and developing immunity from the good bacteria in their mother’s vaginal secretions.
How is vaginal seeding done?
Doctors place swabs inside the vagina of the mother just before delivery. After the C-section is performed and the baby is born, the swabs are rubbed in the baby’s mouth, nose, and skin.
The goal is to transfer good microbes from the mother’s vagina to the baby. These microbes are supposed to help the baby build a healthy gut microbiome and strengthen the baby’s immunity.
Is vaginal seeding really beneficial?
It’s premature to say whether vaginal seeding really benefits babies.
Only one study has demonstrated the positive effect of vaginal seeding. The study was conducted on 15 babies born by cesarean delivery and reported that 4 of the babies who were swabbed with maternal vaginal fluids before their delivery had a microbiome similar to those born by vaginal delivery.
However, this is a small study, so its data cannot be used to recommend the practice of vaginal seeding. More studies are required to determine whether this practice is truly effective or not.
What are the risks of vaginal seeding?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does not recommend the practice of vaginal seeding, and in fact, advises against it.
The procedure can expose babies to a potentially life-threatening infection. If the mother has a vaginal infection such as group B streptococcus, herpes, chlamydia, or gonorrhea, she could pass it to her baby. This could lead to infections such as neonatal sepsis, which is a serious blood infection.
Although rare, the risk is not worth the supposed benefits of vaginal seeding, especially when these benefits have yet to be scientifically proven.
ACOG recommends vaginal seeding only under one of two conditions:
- The mother is part of a clinical trial, where she will be under medical supervision.
- The mother has been made aware of all the risks involved in the practice. After understanding them thoroughly, she can decide whether to go ahead with the practice.
Is there a safer way to boost your baby’s microbiome?
Cuddling can also help strengthen your baby’s immunity, because the skin around your breasts is a source of good bacteria for your baby.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Some Moms Want to Give Their C-Section Babies a ‘Bacterial Baptism,’ But Experts Advise Caution. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-some-moms-are-giving-their-c-section-babies-a-bacterial-baptism-and-why-experts-urge-caution/
Shin H, Pei Z, Martinez KA 2nd, et al. The first microbial environment of infants born by C-section: the operating room microbes [published correction appears in Microbiome. 2016;4:4]. Microbiome. 2015;3:59.
Dominguez-Bello MG, De Jesus-Laboy KM, Shen N, et al. Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer. Nat Med. 2016 Mar;22(3):250-253.
Top What Is Seeding After Birth? Related Articles
Childbirth Delivery Methods and TypesThere are various childbirth delivery methods and types such as the Lamaze method, the Bradley method, water birth, and assisted births. Options for where a woman can deliver her baby include home birth, a birthing center, and a hospital. The method and type of labor and delivery options should be discussed with a woman's doctor.
Are Childbirth Classes Really Necessary?Childbirth is one of the most important and life-changing phases in a couple’s life, particularly in a woman’s life. To learn about the challenges of childbirth and ways to deal with them, there are childbirth classes. Make sure you always register for a class conducted by certified personnel.
Babies QuizTake the Babies Quiz to learn what milestones and developments you can expect from your baby’s first year.
Baby Skin Care: Tips to Keep Newborn’s Skin HealthyBaby skin care products can help with peeling, rashes, baby acne, and dryness that can develop on a newborn baby's skin. Develop a baby skin care routine to pamper your baby’s skin.
Newborn Skin CareWhat does normal baby skin look like? These photos will guide you in proper baby skin care. Learn how to care for your baby's skin with these diapering and bathing tips.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Breastfeeding: Common Breastfeeding ChallengesBreastfeeding an infant can cause common challenges both for the mother an infant. Some challenges include sore nipples, low milk supply, oversupply of milk, engorgement, plugged ducts, breast infection, fungal infections, nursing strike, inverted, flat, or very large nipples, breastfeeding a baby with health problems, and breastfeeding in special situations. Tips and helpful information can inform mothers how to manage and handles these challenges while continuing to breastfeed her baby.
C-Section (Cesarean Birth)C-section (cesarean birth) is surgery to deliver a baby. C-section options, what to expect before, during, and after the delivery of your baby are important considerations for birth. Reasons for a C-section delivery include multiple births, health problems, problems with the pelvis, placenta, or umbilical cord. Vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC) is also an important issue to discuss with your doctor if you have had prior C-section deliveries.
Can You Have a Hysterectomy With C-Section?Hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) may be performed during Cesarean delivery and is referred to as a Cesarean hysterectomy. It involves the removal of the uterus at the time of Cesarean delivery.
Childbirth Class OptionsChildbirth class options include the Lamaze technique, the Bradley Method, the Alexander Technique, and HypnoBirthing.
Why Is Normal Delivery Not Possible After Cesarean Delivery?A vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (VBAC) is possible for many women, but it depends on many factors. Insisting on VBAC may put both you and your baby at risk; hence, you need to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
Pregnancy: Birthing, Breastfeeding, and Parenting ClassesPreparing for a baby is an important step in parents' lives. Choosing the right birthing class and method (Lamaze, Bradley, etc.) is important for the mother, baby, and father or support giver. Parenting classes are also information for first time parents. Information is provided about diapering, feeding, and bathing your baby as well as the different stages of child development.
Pain Relief Options for ChildbirthWomen experience and tolerate pain differently. For some pregnant women, focused breathing is all they need to get through labor and childbirth; but for others, numbing of the pain is desired. There are a number of different medications a woman can take during labor and childbirth. It is important for you to learn what pain relief options are available. Please discuss the options with your health care professional well before your "birth day" so that when you are in labor you understand the choices.