Most mums will do pretty much anything to make sure their child’s as healthy as possible – including coating them in their vaginal fluid, apparently. This may sound completely bonkers, but it could actually be a really sensible idea.
The controversial new post-birth trend, dubbed ‘seeding’, has taken off in Australia, with mothers who delivered their babies via C-section requesting their tot to be covered in their own vaginal fluid after birth.
When babies are born vaginally, they come into contact with approximately 300 types of bacteria while moving down the birth canal – something that helps them build up a defence system against illness and disease, which caesarean babies miss out on.
Hence the post-birth cleanse. The hope is that by applying the fluid to the baby’s mouth, face and body, the child’s immune system will be given a boost from the similar exposure to bacteria as babies born vaginally.
“These bacteria set up the child’s microbiome, which is what enables their body to defend against all kinds of diseases,” Dr Hannah Dahlen, associate professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney Obviously told Body and Soul.
“When a baby is born by C-section, they aren’t exposed to these bacteria and their immune system isn’t as strong as a result. We believe this is part of the reason why children born via C-section have an increased risk of autoimmune diseases.”
Babies born by caesarean section and not exposed to vaginal bacteria, are more at risk of developing asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes and coeliac disease. So ‘seeding’ a caesarean born baby immediately after birth could be a brilliant start in life. But it’s just a hope at the time being – the practice is still relatively unheard of and hasn’t been scientifically proven. Yet.
Dr Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor at New York University’s School of Medicine, is leading a study to compare the microbiomes of 17 babies – six of which were born naturally and 11 born via C-section. Four of which were seeded. The results haven’t yet been published, but the professor says the preliminary evidence looks promising.
“What we’ve found is that if you expose a baby born via C-section to vaginal fluid, you can partially restore the microbes it misses out on by not coming through the birth canal,” she says.
“We can’t restore them 100 per cent, which isn’t surprising when you consider how long a baby is exposed to the vaginal microbes during labour. But there might be a window very early on after birth when we can help balance the immune system.
“We can’t yet imply anything about improving the baby’s health in terms of its risk of disease, though,” she adds. “In order to prove that, we need to conduct a study of 1200 babies, and that’s something we’re working towards.”
Would you consider seeding your baby? Or do you know anyone who’s done it? Tweet us at @YLifestyleUK.