You’ve read all the books, gone to the classes and finalized your ten-page birthing plan. But here’s a term you might not know: vaginal seeding for women who have had a C-section. We chatted with OB/GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd about the new practice, including whether or not it’s a good idea.
So, what is it? “Vaginal seeding is when vaginal fluids are put on a cotton gauze or a cotton swab in order to transfer the vaginal flora to the mouth, nose or skin of a newborn infant,” Dr. Shepherd tells us.
And why are people doing this? When babies are born via natural birth, they are exposed to mom's vaginal secretions as they travel through the birth canal. C-section babies miss out on this, so the idea behind vaginal seeding is to replicate this process. “The theory is that transferring of maternal vaginal bacteria to the newborn allows for proper colonization of the fetal gut and, therefore, reduces the subsequent risk of asthma and other immune disorders.”
Any potential drawbacks? “This has not been widely studied, so it’s unclear what (if any) benefits there are. Also, there is a risk of transferring infections that are not diagnosed such as Group B strep and sexually transmitted diseases. This could potentially result in a severe infection that may not have happened with a Cesarean delivery.”
The final verdict? Dr. Shepherd doesn’t recommend vaginal seeding, arguing that it hasn’t been studied enough and it’s unclear what the long-term effects are. And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) agrees, recently issuing a statement advising against vaginal seeding until more data is available. Here’s another thing: While some studies have shown a link between allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease and C-sections, there’s no clear evidence that one causes the other. So until there’s more info available, the experts say to give this one a miss.