When babies are born naturally they are exposed to many beneficial bacteria as they pass down the vaginal canal, which some studies suggest may boost their immune system and protect them from various future health problems.
But babies who are a born by caesarean section miss out on these helpful microbes, so a process known as 'vaginal seeding' is now a growing trend.
Vaginal seeding involves taking a swab of vaginal fluid and applying it to the baby's eyes, face and skin after birth.
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But, new research from the Danish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology says the benefits of vaginal seeding do not outweigh the risks.
The researchers analysed the only existing vaginal seeding study, from which no safety conclusions can be made as only four babies were involved.
They report that the study did, however, highlight the difficulty in determining healthy vaginal bacteria and the risk of passing on infections, such as HIV, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, herpes, Group B streptococci and Escherichia coli, from the mother to the baby.
The team concluded that vaginal seeding should not be recommended by doctors as the risks are still unknown.
Dr Tine Dalsgaard Clausen, consultant obstetrician at Nordsjaellands Hospital, Denmark and lead author of the study, said more research is needed to understand if vaginal seeding lowered the risk of babies born via cesarean section developing chronic conditions later in life.
"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."
She added that instead of vaginal seeding, doctors should focus on advising mothers of other factors that are known to have a positive impact of a baby's gut bacteria, such as early skin-to-skin contact with the mothers, breastfeeding and following a healthy diet.
Dr Patrick O'Brien, consultant obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), agreed that there is no robust evidence to suggest vaginal seeding has benefits.
"It is also important to note that some vaginal bacteria can be passed on to the baby, occasionally causing illness. Ultimately, it is a woman's decision, but as healthcare professionals we must advise our patients about the balance of unproven benefits and the small possible risks involved," he concluded.
Read more from the original source:
Vaginal seeding birth trend could do more harm than good - Netdoctor
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