Vaginal seeding – a safe fad?

Some women seem to be taking matters into their own hands when attempting to address the issue of whether or not a caesarean birth places babies at a disadvantage in the development of their microbiome (the colonisation of their gut with health bacteria).

In recent years there has been a lot of talk in the press linking caesarean born children with a higher incidence of obesity or asthma. Such media scaremongering is not helpful for those mothers whose medical situation has meant a caesarean has been a necessity and whose recovery has already been hampered by emotional trauma.

A recent study looking specifically at birth mode and a baby’s microbiome found there to be no lasting difference even as early as 4-8 weeks after birth, particularly if they are also breastfed. Chu 2017

Similarly, while some studies suggest there is a moderate risk of obesity in children born by caesarean, most fail to acknowldge that maternal BMI during pregnancy as well as maternal and paternal BMI post birth are also found to have an noticeable effect. A study attempting to evaluate a collection of studies on this issue still only found moderate risk and could not rule out the above confounding variables. Li 2013

And on the issue of asthma, studies are also contradictory and inconclusive, at best finding either no link, Maitra 2004, or include significant additional factors such as prematurity, maternal asthma, allergic parents, being born with respiratory difficulties etc. rendering the results unreliable. Debley 2005, Roduit 2008, Smith 2004

Despite this, the media continue to propogate such stories, despite the fact that even the research papers themselves rarely say anything more concrete than for example: It could be that C-section physically prevents newborns from acquiring microbes they would during vaginal births”.

Instead women are putting their babies at risk through inadvertent exposure to dangerous STIs including HIV, chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea.

Dr Patrick O’Brien, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states: there is “no robust evidence” that vaginal seeding actually has any health benefits to a baby. And a colleague leading the review of studies looking at vaginal seeding, Dr Tine Dalsgaard Clausen, Consultant obstetrician at Nordsjaellands Hospital, Denmark adds “Currently, there is no evidence to show that the potential long-term benefits of vaginal seeding outweigh the risks or costs associated,…it’s important that healthcare professionals promote other factors that are known to improve a baby’s colony of bacteria, such as early skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and a healthy diet.”

Until there is robust evidence that this technique is both safe and effective, parents could be well advised to evaluate the megre information presented in media stories and review current research for themselves.

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