Vaginal seeding is the practice of using cotton gauze or a cotton swab to transfer vaginal fluids to the mouth, nose or skin of a newborn. The purpose is to transfer a mother's vaginal bacteria to her baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently doesn't recommend or encourage vaginal seeding outside of a research setting.
If a C-section is done before labor begins or before a woman's water breaks, the baby won't come into contact with maternal vaginal fluid or bacteria. The theory is that vaginal seeding will establish bacteria in the baby's gut that could reduce the risk of asthma, atopic conditions such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and eczema, and immune disorders.
However, the long-term benefits of vaginal seeding are unclear. In addition, there's concern that vaginal infections, such as group B streptococcus, herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea, could be passed from mother to baby. Further research is needed.
In the meantime, if you want to promote your baby's gut health, consider breast-feeding. Bacteria present in breast milk and on the skin around the nipple have been shown to contribute to the seeding of the infant gut.
Oct. 04, 2019
See more Expert Answers
- Cunnington AJ, et al. "Vaginal seeding" of infants born by caesarean section. British Medical Journal. 2016;352:i227.
- Dominguez-Bello MG, et al. Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer. Nature Medicine. 2016;22:250.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Obstetric Practice. Committee Opinion No. 725. Vaginal seeding. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2017;130:e274.
- Mueller NT, et al. The infant microbiome development: Mom matters. Trends in Molecular Medicine. 2015;21:109.
- West CE, et al. The gut microbiota and inflammatory noncommunicable diseases: Associations and potentials for gut microbiota therapies. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2015;135:3.