Why Are Moms Coating Their Newborns in Vaginal Fluid?
It's a practice called "vaginal seeding," and yep, it really is a thing. An ob-gyn weighs in.
Lately we’ve been debunking lots of out-there vagina-related wellness trends—like the idea of putting jade eggs inside your lady bits to intensify orgasm and engaging in something called vagina weight lifting.
So when we heard about a practice known as vaginal seeding, we knew we had to investigate.
No, it has nothing to do with gardening. Vaginal seeding has new moms who have just undergone a C-section coating their newborn in their own vaginal fluids (which have been collected or absorbed by a swab or gauze). The thinking is that infants born via a C-section are not exposed to the same immune-boosting bacteria as those born vaginally. Coating them with vaginal fluid supposedly gives them the protective bacteria they need.
“The vagina has between 10 and 20 [types of] bacteria that normally live there, and they’re part of a mom’s defense,” explains Michael Cackovic, MD, ob-gyn at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Since the vaginal biome is a baby’s first exposure to bacteria, it’s thought that passing through the vagina during labor actually primes their immune system.”
Vaginal seeding is in the news right now because a new report published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked into the practice (which appears to be more popular in Europe than in the United States) and found no evidence of any benefit.
“It’s an interesting concept, but there are no studies on it,” says Dr. Cackovic. Even worse, it could be dangerous.
"The transfer of some pathogens, which may be asymptomatic in the mother, could result in severe adverse consequences for infants,” states the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Those consequences can include sexually transmitted diseases like herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, as well as infections like streptococcus.
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“A lot of women have viral shedding of genital herpes in their vagina," says Dr. Cackovic. "That’s something that can be life threatening to a baby."
Then there's this January 2017 study, which found that the differences in the microorganisms of Caesarean-born babies and babies delivered vaginally disappeared in the first six weeks of life. The research suggests that an infant's microbiome makes healthy adjustments no matter how he or she came into the world.
Bottom line: Until more studies are done on vaginal seeding that show real health benefits, do your seeding in your garden and leave your hoo-ha out of it.