Will You Soak Your Newborn With Vaginal Juices?

Health News
3 min read
Hindi Female

Mums in the West who give birth by caesarean section are reportedly smearing their newborns with vaginal fluids -yes, this is a thing!

This bizarre, new trend called ‘vaginal seeding’, refers to the practice of soaking your newborn in vaginal discharge right after delivery to enhance their body’s immune system.

The craze has got parents like me intrigued and non-parents totally grossed out! As eccentric as it sounds, vaginal seeding might slowly take over the abhorrent, nauseous placenta-eating fad as an after-birth trend. (Yes, it’s a thing too, trust the mother of all publicity seekers, the name starts with “Kim” and ends with “Kardashian” to be sensationalizing it!)


What’s the Technique? Is It Safe?

Experts writing in the British Medical Journal say the practice of ‘seeding’ after caesarean births could put babies at risk. (Photo: iStock)

The first germs to colonize a newborn delivered vaginally come almost exclusively from the mother. But the first to reach an infant born by cesarean section come mostly from the hospital environment, the mum’s skin and from everyone else in the delivery room.

It is thought that these birth bacteria protect the babies against childhood allergies, asthma, celiac disease, obesity and even diabetes in adulthood.


But before you start rubbing vaginal flora all over your newborn, take a closer look at the data.

The trend of vaginal seeding started after a proof-of-principle study by Dr Gloria Dominguez-Bello of New York University.

This study was done on 21 babies, only 7 of which were seeded with vaginal juices. These babies were followed up for a month and their skin showed an increased diversity of bacterial flora.

That’s it. More microbes on their skin not “inside” their gut. No follow-up studies were done to see if these microbes played any role in making the babies become healthier.

This is a research poster, not a full peer reviewed published study. Basing clinical decisions on a poster is like giving a movie an Oscar based only on the movie’s preview.
Heather Rupe, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Williamson Medical Center, Franklin as told to Women’s Health

Can the risks associated with this bizarre technique outweigh the benefits?


Risks Associated With the Fad

This fad is well intentioned but not backed by science (Photo: The Quint)

Women who opt for this hipster post-birth trend have taken a leap of faith. Doctors say it is impossible to recreate the natural environment of the birth canal in a hospital considering how long the baby is exposed to the microbes in the birth canal in a vaginal delivery.

Also, there is no concrete medical evidence that the practice is beneficial in any way.

In fact a study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) says that mothers are putting their newborns at a serious risk of infection by doing so. For example, more than 25% of all women in US carry the ‘group-B strep bacteria’ in their system, it might not harm an adult but artificially exposing a newborn to it can cause meningitis and even sepsis.

The study in BMJ considers seeding “too high-risk”, far from being “safe” for newborns. Of course this stance might change in the future if there is evidence to show clear benefits of vaginal seeding, but at the moment, the jury is out - vaginal seeding does more harm than good.

Doctors say there are other ways to boost a child’s immune system - exclusive breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and avoiding antibiotics, for starters.

Given how this fad is catching on, do you think seeding will become a second nature in c-section births? Will you consider this in your pregnancy?

Methinks every birth is different, natural and a humbling process. Soaking a newborn in vaginal juices is not the kind of conversation I would have over the dinner table. But imagine the fun you can have in future, when your child annoys the living daylights out of you and are reminded of what you swabbed their face with right after birth!

Bet they would have no answer to that.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  C-Section 

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