Giving birth is by far one of the craziest things the human body will go through. No wonder there are so many different types of birth plans and procedures to follow. Some of these might sound a bit wacky—consuming your placenta for the nutrients, anyone?
But there’s one perhaps wackier procedure that’s recently been circling the OBGYN world. And it’s called vaginal seeding. We’re not saying it’s totally strange to do, it’s just a bit out there. And there isn’t enough research on it just yet to fully understand how it works.
What is vaginal seeding?
Also referred to as “microbirthing,” vaginal seeding is a process that occurs when vaginal fluids and microbes are applied to a newborn child’s nose, mouth, or skin after they’re delivered by a caesarean section. The fluids are usually transferred via a cotton swab.
Before you give a blank stare, there are actually good intentions behind vaginal seeding. This process is meant to create a biome on the baby to help protect them from asthma, atopic disease, obesity, various autoimmune disease, and more.
These conditions are all potentially linked to babies who are delivered via C-section, at least more so than those born in a natural vaginal birth, and there’s research that shows the vagina contributes crucial elements of a newborn’s microbiome that can potentially help with preventing any of the latter to occur.
“The first time a baby’s own immune system has to respond are to those first few bacteria, that we believe is important for, in some way, setting the baby’s immune system,” says Professor Peter Brocklehurst if the University of Birmingham.
Is vaginal seeding recommended?
While some mothers choose to perform vaginal seeding for this reason, and there’s some preliminary research out there that show its potential benefits, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other experts actually don’t recommend this—at least just yet.
While there are potential (keyword here!) benefits as mentioned above, to this process, there hasn’t been any sufficient research on the safety or even benefits of vaginal seeding, and experts caution to wait until this becomes available to go through with it.
“Women shouldn’t do vaginal seeding until trials show it’s safe and offers health benefits to infants,” says Dr. Suchitra Hourigan, a pediatric gastroenterologist and director of the Inova Translational Medicine Institute in Falls Church, Virginia. “I’m worried about mothers doing this without screening and sometimes without supervision by a physician who says it’s OK.”
Moms who deliver via C-section can also take different precautions to ensure their baby gets all the benefits of the microbiota without any risks—like breastfeeding.
“Breast milk contains many of the same beneficial bacteria found in a woman’s vagina,” said Dr. Hourigan.
While vaginal seeding seems to have some preliminary benefits, it’s still important to discuss this extensively with your doctor to see if this is something that’s recommended for you—it most likely won’t be without any substantial research to determine if the benefits are concrete.
What do you think of the concept of vaginal seeding? Would you ever consider it if more beneficial research came out on it? Do you know any mothers who’ve gone through with it before?