Tuesday 26/05/2020 - 07:07 am

Does vaginal seeding boost health?

2018.04.21 04:24

Should Caesarean-section babies be smeared with a sample of their mothers vaginal fluids as soon as they are born?

"Vaginal seeding" is not mainstream medicine, but it is growing in popularity.

The idea is to give these newborns something they missed when they emerged into the world - the good bacteria that live in their mothers vagina.

A swab is taken of mums vaginal fluid, which is then rubbed on to her childs skin and mouth.

The hope is this microbial gift will boost their childs long-term health - particularly by reducing their risk of immune disorders.

It is a crucial time.

We might have been sterile in the womb, but in our first few moments of life an invisible bond is being established between baby and bacteria.

Its a relationship that will last a lifetime, and the first contact is as important as a first date.

"The first time a babys own immune system has to respond are to those first few bacteria," says Prof Peter Brocklehurst, from the University of Birmingham.

"That we believe is important for, in some way, setting the babys immune system."

There is a noticeable difference between the microbiomes - the collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea - of babies born vaginally and by Caesarean section.

It lasts for about the first year of life.

A baby born vaginally is first exposed and colonised by microbes from their mothers vagina and gut.

But for Caesarean-section babies, the first exposure "if theyre lucky", says Prof Brocklehurst, comes from the very different organisms on their mothers skin.

He is running the Baby Biome Study to see if these different microbial colonists on Caesarean-section babies explain why they have higher rates of diseases such as asthma and allergies later in life.

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