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When a baby is born it travels through the birth canal and vagina, it is exposed to many different bacteria present there. Studies have suggested bacteria passed from your vaginal canal to your baby helps to develop a healthy immune system.
If your baby is born via C-section they don’t pass through the vaginal canal and will not undergo their “bacterial baptism”. Vaginal seeding involves the swabbing of your vagina at delivery for the transfer of maternal bacteria to your newborn. This helps to shape your baby’s immune system and protect them against pathogens.
What are the benefits of vaginal seeding? Your baby is coming from a relatively sterile world, where they have not yet been exposed to the bacteria in the outside world. The bacteria from your vaginal and gastrointestinal tract are the foundations that shape your babies gut flora, they are the first inoculation in life
Benefits for your Baby
• Vaginal seeding changes your baby’s gut flora at birth, and helps to prevent conditions such as asthma, type I diabetes and obesity later in life. This was documented in a study by Cunnington, A, J et al 2016 who found these conditions at a higher rate babies born via C-section.
• Vaginal seeding restores some of baby’s gut flora to a more “natural” state after a C-section.
What does the research tell us?
• A study by Stinson, L et al 2018 confirmed babies born via C- section have a different gut flora. Interestingly they noted this is less likely to be caused by missing out on the vaginal bacteria but more likely due to mum having antibiotics in labour.
• Stinson et al, 2018 reported there was no difference in your babies gut flora until 5 days post birth if they are born via C-section
• Many C-section mum will not experience labor, meaning the relatively sterile sac your baby is living inside of, does not rupture. The rupturing of the sac introduces the first bacteria’s to your baby and its developing gut.
• Neu, J and Rushing, I et al 2011, reported postnatal gut flora develops differently depending on the type of delivery. And the development of the gut flora is directly linked to your baby’s immune system.
• Obesity changes mums gut flora, and in turn their babies. A higher fat diet changes mums milk flora and this will influence her baby’s gut flora in return.
• Holding your baby skin to skin immediately after a C-section can help start the mix of healthy bacteria to your baby.
If you wish to add vaginal seeding to your caesarian birth plan, make sure you have had a through discussion with your midwife or doctor in advance. Bear in mind you will also need to be free from herpes simplex virus, chlamydia and gonorrhea as these can be passed onto your newborn by seeding. In some instances even though vaginal seeding has been discussed in your birth plan it may not be possible, for example in an emergency C-section.
Our practitioners always aim to optimise your microbiome prior to conceiving. If you need help or are interested in testing your current gut health, please book you appointment online now.
Cunnington, A, J., Sim, K., Deierl, A., Kroll, J, S., Brannigan, E., Darby, J (2016). “Vaginal seeding” of infants born by caesarean section – How should health professionals engage with this increasingly popular but unproved practice? “British Medical Journal” 352, 227, 1-2.
Neu,J., and Rushing, I (2011). Caesarean versus Vaginal Delivery: Long term infant outcomes and the Hygiene Hypothesis. “Clinical Perinatol” 38, 2, 321-331.
Stinson, L, F., Payne, M, S., and Keelan, J, A (2018). A Critical Review of the Bacterial Baptism Hypothesis and the Impact of Cesarean Delivery on the Infant Microbiome. “Frontiers in Medicine Obstetrics and Gynecology” 5, 135, 1-13.