Doctors are warning against the post-birth technique of vaginal seeding.
Seeding – which involves taking a swab of vaginal fluid and rubbing it into a newborn baby’s face, skin and eyes – is typically carried out on children born via caesarean.
The strange-sounding procedure is used to expose C-section babies to bacteria they would have been coated in if they had been born vaginally. This bacteria plays an important function in training the immune system and can help decrease the chance of contracting allergies and asthma in the future.
As well as allergies, studies have shown that babies born via caesarean are more likely to suffer from health problems including type 1 diabetes, eczema and celiac disease.
But medical experts believe there is little scientific evidence to support the seeding technique, even going so far as to say that it may be causing more harm than good.
A new report stated that more than 90 per cent of obstetricians in Denmark had been asked about vaginal seeding by expectant mothers. It mentioned that only one real study has ever been carried out on vaginal seeding and this only used four babies.
Instead of listing benefits, the report warned of major risks to newborn babies including the chance of contracting a range of sexually transmitted infections as well as group-B streptococcus and E. Coli.
Danish consultant and author of the report, Dr Tine Clausen, told the BBC: “We know that women and their partners are increasingly speaking to their doctors about vaginal seeding.”
“I really understand, it’s a fascinating thought that you’re able to mimic nature by doing the seeding, but it’s based on some theoretical thoughts and we don’t have evidence to support it.”
She stated that there were two reasons vaginal seeding may not work: the swab taken may not contain the same bacteria transferred during a vaginal birth and the bacteria is likely to be more diluted due to the blood and amniotic fluid present in the vaginal tract during labour.
Dr Clausen’s advice to women is to “avoid unnecessary caesareans, aim for breastfeeding for at least half a year and to have early skin-to-skin contact.”
Another doctor gave his thoughts on vaginal seeding, expressing that he “would not recommend it until more definitive research shows it isn’t harmful.” Dr Patrick O’Brien from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists conclude that “there is no robust evidence to suggest that vaginal seeding has any associated benefits.”
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