Vaginal Seeding: What Is It, And Should You Do It?
The human microbiome has become a recognized entity unto itself, thought to provide necessary genetic material from bacteria in our bodies to help fight infection and regulate bodily functions, particularly the immune system and gastrointestinal system. There has been increasing interest in creating a more robust microbiome for newborn infants. External factors such as overuse of antibiotics, dietary changes, and even excessive use of hand sanitizers may be contributing to altering the human microbiome soon after birth. Cesarean section performed before the onset of labor or rupture of membranes precludes the fetus from coming into contact with maternal vaginal fluids, which may contribute to an altered environment in the newborn immune system, in turn altering the early development of the infant microbiome. As the gastrointestinal tract of an infant is sterile, the bacterial transfer from the mother via vaginal delivery, skin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding provide the newborn with “healthy” bacteria necessary for immune development early on. The important presence of these bacteria may be reduced with Cesarean section, formula feeding, or if the mother received antibiotics around the time of labor and delivery.
Cesarean section delivery has been associated with higher incidence of asthma, environmental and food allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and autoimmune diseases. Many have considered that these issues may be due to absence of the newborn’s contact with vaginal bacteria during delivery. Thus the practice of vaginal seeding, also known as microbirthing, has become quite fashionable, in efforts to boost the infant microbiome.