Here's Why 'Vaginal Seeding' Is Dangerous For Newborns

The trend, which is exactly what it sounds like, is popular with C-section moms.

There's always some new birth trend that makes parents wonder whether they too should hop on the bandwagon.

Some, such as professional birth photography and eating your own placenta, are relatively harmless.

But experts are now warning that vaginal seeding, where an infant born by caesarean section is swabbed with fluids from a mother's vagina, could pass potentially-dangerous bacteria and illnesses such as sexually transmitted infections to the newborn.

The very real risks outweigh the potential benefits.Dr. Christopher Zahn

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines this week cautioning against the practice.

"Understandably, patients who may need to undergo a C-section are increasingly seeking counsel from ob-gyns on whether vaginal seeding is appropriate," Christopher Zahn, M.D., vice president of Practice Activities for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement.

"However, due to the lack of sufficient data, the very real risks outweigh the potential benefits. By swabbing an infant's mouth, nose or skin with vaginal fluid after birth, the mother could potentially, and unknowingly, pass on disease-causing bacteria or viruses."

C-Sections In Canada

In Canada, 27 per cent of births were by C-section in 2013, according to the Canadian Institute For Health Information.

The rate is higher in older moms, with one Ontario study finding that 43 per cent of women over age 40 gave birth by C-section. Older women are more likely to face complications that could result in the need for a C-section, the National Post reports, but something called "precious baby" syndrome also plays a role.

"You've either tried a long time to get pregnant, or you've had IVF and finally you get pregnant and you say, 'I can't take any chances, I'm going to have a cesarean section,'" Dr. Michael Klein, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and senior scientist emeritus at the Child and Family Research Institute, told the National Post.

Why Is Vaginal Seeding Popular?

A baby born by C-section isn't exposed to the same birth canal bacteria that a vaginal birth provides.

The thought is that "seeding" this bacteria usually by swiping a cotton swab with the mother's vaginal fluids on it against the baby's mouth, nose or skin would expose the infant to bacteria that could help protect it from developing asthma, atopic disease, and immune disorders, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said.

But the research doesn't yet outweigh the potential risks, Zahn said.

"Breastfeeding for the first six months is the best way to overcome the lack of exposure to maternal vaginal flora at birth," he added.

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