Seeding the microbiome at birth
One of the topics we cover on our courses is ‘seeding the microbiome’ which is all about building baby’s immune system and gut health during and just after birth.
This includes moving down the birth path and coming into contact bacteria from the vagina and rectum, skin-to-skin and being fed colostrum.
When a baby is born by caesarean abdominal birth, the birth path step is missed.
Vaginal seeding is an option to replicate this step. It has been mainly researched in the US where the caesarean rate is very high, but the information available hasn’t quite made it possible to confirm if vaginal seeding has definite benefits.
New research confirms there is a difference between babies who are swabbed with vaginal fluid vs. babies who are not. Scientists acknowledge that larger studies would be needed in order to roll out standard implementation but this is a step in the right direction for anyone who is keen to implement this step but isn’t 100% sure due to lack of evidence.
Wondering how you ‘do’ vaginal seeding? Here are the steps:
- Source a sterile gauze in advance of the birth-day. This could be through your healthcare provider or a chemist.
- Let your healthcare provider know that you would like to swab baby once they are born.
On the day:
- Roll the gauze up into a tampon shape and very slightly wet it with a saline solution to make it easier to insert.
- Insert the tampon shaped gauze as you would a tampon approximately one hour before a planned caesarean, or wipe the vaginal area with the gauze if you are about to have an unplanned caesarean and have been in labour.
- Make absolutely sure that your midwife knows it is there and you wish your baby to baby wiped with it once they are born.
- Remove the gauze just before the birth and place it into a sterile container like a urine sample pot or zip lock bag.
- Once baby is born, ask your midwife to wipe the gauze across baby’s face, including their mouth, and over their body and hands, taking care not to wipe it in their eyes. If your midwife is not sure what to do (as vaginal seeding may be out of hospital guidelines meaning they may not be familiar with the process), your birth partner can do this.
Risks to consider are the hygiene elements of the swabbing and to ensure you are using sterile items.
Here is a further research summary that draws in multiple sources of research for this topic, and summaries the known benefits and risks associated with vaginal seeding:
The key is to be informed and do what feels right for you and your family. We are here to support you every step of the way with understanding your options and making informed decisions with our private and group courses.
Choose from an ‘all births’ vaginal birth preference course or ‘planned caesarean’ course.
Read the full summary of the new research here.