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Lack of research on vaginal seeding

Wednesday August 23rd, 2017

Vaginal seeding should not be recommended by health care professionals as the risks are still unclear, European experts warn today.

The practice is intended to benefit new-born babies by compensating for the lack of exposure to healthy bacteria that takes place during a vaginal delivery. It is gaining popularity as the importance of the 'microbiome' is increasingly understood.

However this technique, which takes a swab of vaginal fluid and applies it to the baby's eyes, face and skin after birth, is not without risk, say Dr Tine Dalsgaard Clausen of Nordsjaellands Hospital, Denmark, and colleagues.

Writing today (23 August) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the experts state that only one study has been carried out on vaginal seeding, and it involved only four babies. Hence no firm clinical recommendations can be made, and there may be a risk of passing on infections, such as HIV, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, Group B streptococci and Escherichia coli.

Dr Clausen and his team encourage health care professionals to advise mothers that other factors, such as early skin-to-skin contact with the mother and/or her partner, breastfeeding and diet, can also benefit their baby's ‘microbiome’, in particular the gastrointestinal bacteria.

"It is clear that much more research is needed to understand if exposing babies born via caesarean section to vaginal bacteria soon after birth can lower their risk of developing chronic conditions later in life," said Dr Clausen.

"Currently, there is no evidence to show that the potential long-term benefits of vaginal seeding outweigh the risks or costs associated, however, we encourage researchers to investigate vaginal seeding further and would support patients' participating in safely controlled clinical trials."

Haahr, T. et al. Vaginal seeding or vaginal microbial transfer from mother to the caesarean born neonate: a comment regarding clinical management. BJOG 23 August 2017; doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.14792 [abstract]

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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