Why doctors are warning against ‘seeding’

The practise of covering babies in vaginal fluid after birth is becoming increasingly popular - but experts are advising mums not to do it

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Back in June 2015 MFM reported on a trend called ‘seeding’ – new mums requesting their babies be covered in their vaginal fluids after a C-section birth.

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Now, a new ruling from the committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has suggested there is not enough evidence that seeding is beneficial for it to be carried out. Their committee advised that it:

“…does not recommend or encourage vaginal seeding outside of the context of an institutional review board-approved research protocol, and it is recommended that vaginal seeding otherwise not be performed until adequate data regarding the safety and benefit of the process become available.”

More about seeding

Babies born vaginally pick up a range of bacteria while moving down the birth canal, which can improve a baby’s immune system. As babies born via C-section aren’t exposed to the bacteria this way, a number of mothers began requesting they be swabbed and their newborns slathered in their vaginal fluids instead.

Previous studies on seeding

A couple of years ago researchers in Minnesota, USA, did a very small study on seeding, tracking 18 babies from birth to one month old – 7 of whom were born vaginally, 11 via C-section. Four of the C-section babies were rubbed down with vaginal discharge from their mums straight after birth – collected by putting gauze into the women’s vaginas an hour before the C-section was due.

Within the first 2 minutes of birth the babies were rubbed down over their whole bodies with the fluids, including face, lips, thorax, genital regions, back, legs and anal region.

Over the next 30 days, the babies were monitored and those C-section babies who had been slathered with their mothers’ fluids were found to have similar microbiomes (in essence, good bacteria) on them to the babies who were born vaginally.

Those involved indicated it does at least seem to give some credibility to the idea of seeding – but even  at the time they acknowledged that more research needs to be done to work out what the short-and long-term effects might be.

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