Doctors Warn Against Vaginal Seeding

A group of Danish obstetricians notes that the procedure carries risks and that there is little evidence supporting its benefits to the infant microbiome. 

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Aug 24, 2017

FLICKR, CONTROLADOMore than 90 percent of surveyed Danish obstetricians have been asked about vaginal seeding, a procedure in which swabs of vaginal fluid are applied to babies born via cesarean section in an attempt to expose them to microbes they would have collected had they been delivered vaginally, according to a report published this week (August 22) in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. But the procedure may not be safe, and the existing literature does not provide a strong case for its benefits, the report authors warn. It “could do more harm than good,” the authors write.

See “Study: Babies’ Microbiomes Indifferent to Mode of Delivery

The primary risk is exposure to harmful bacteria, such as group-B streptococcus and E. coli. And no carefully controlled studies have been performed on large numbers of infants to assess whether the procedure carries with it the...

Patrick O’Brien of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists agrees. “There is no robust evidence to suggest that vaginal seeding has any associated benefits,” he tells BBC News. “We would therefore not recommend it until more definitive research shows that it is not harmful and can in fact improve a child’s digestive and/or immune system.”

See “Infant Microbiome: Vaginal Delivery Versus C-Section

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