Should You Request a Seeding After Your C-Section?
Are you considering having a C-section, but want to make sure that your baby is not lacking the benefits of a vaginal birth? Here is why you may want to request a “seeding” of your infant immediately after a C-section delivery.
New research shows that it is possible to provide C-section babies with a micro-biome (population of bacteria) that closely matches the one babies delivered vaginally naturally receive from their mother. The significance of this is that some studies demonstrate an associated increased risk of immune and metabolic disorders including asthma, allergies, and obesity in C-section delivered babies who were not exposed to their mother’s vaginal fluids during delivery.
The research was recently published in the current issue of the journal Nature Medicine where scientists designed a preliminary pilot study experiment where newborn C-section infants were “seeded” with sterile vaginal fluids, after which their micro-biomes were then later compared to vaginally borne infants and non-seeded C-section infants.
“Seeding” is the common term for basically placing a sterile gauze in a mother’s vagina shortly before giving birth by C-section, and then removing the bacteria-containing gauze and wiping it across the delivered baby’s mouth, face, body and anus in hope that the protective bacteria will transfer from the mother to her child. If the transfer is successful, in theory the seeded infant will develop an improved immune system.
This pilot study compared the micro-biomes of:
• Four C-section infants receiving the gauze treatment
• Seven infants born by C-section without the gauze treatment
• Seven infants delivered vaginally
What the micro-biome analysis revealed over the next 30 days following the births was that C-section infants who received the vaginal fluid swabbing developed a shift in their bacteria types toward ones typical of a vaginal delivery, whereas the C-section infants without the swabbing developed micro-biomes typical of those observed in C-section infants. In particular, the published study notes that in the swabbed infants there was “early enrichment” of Lactobacillus and Bacteroides bacteria—two types of healthy bacteria that are noticeably diminished in babies born by C-section.
However, there was less of a difference in bacterial types residing in the anal environments between the C-section compared infants. This finding is hypothesized being due to that the brief vaginal fluid swabbing does not transfer equally as well to the gut in compared to normal vaginal delivery where the infant may ingest significantly more of the mother’s bacteria.
The authors point out that this was a very small study and that more studies need to be done to support their finding that vaginal microbes can be partially restored at birth in C-section–delivered babies. Furthermore, additional studies will need to be done to determine whether there may be long-term health consequences in restoring the microbiota of C-section–delivered infants.
For more about C-section infant health, here is an informative article that warns why a C-section is not the best choice for small preterm babies.
Nature Medicine “Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer” Published online 01 February 2016; Maria Dominguez-Bello et al.
WBUR 90.9 Boston NPR News “Research: Could Birth-Canal Bacteria Help C-Section Babies?”