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Is Vaginal Swabbing Safe? C-Section Babies Could Be Hurt By The Controversial Practice

When babies are born vaginally, they get protective microbes found in the birth canal that are thought to strengthen their immune system. Infants born via Cesarean section don't receive the same health benefits because they don't pass through their parent's vagina. To solve this issue, some scientists have suggested using a vaginal swab to transfer the microbes to C-section babies. But is vaginal swabbing safe? Although past research has shown promise, some doctors believe that the practice, known as vaginal seeding (VS), will do babies born via C-sections more harm than good.

According to POPSUGAR, a study published last February by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) found that swabbing a C-section baby with its mother's fluids can boost its microbial makeup so that it could better protect against allergies, asthma, and other health issues. But earlier this week, the Danish Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (DSOFG) spoke out against the practice in a report for the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Researchers with DSOFG wrote that, because vaginal seeding is "not a natural process," the baby faces a higher potential risk of illness or infection. Those issues can include E. coli, herpes simplex virus, or group-B streptococcus, a type of vaginal bacteria infection, among others.

The scientists wrote in their report,

There is no evidence to suggest that the proposed long-term benefits would outweigh the costs and potential risk of implementing VS. Consequently, we do not recommend VS...

According to BBC, more than 90 percent of Danish obstetricians reported receiving requests for more information on vaginal seeding. Although research from UCSD identified some benefits, doctors contend that the study is too small to promote vaginal seeding as a way to boost microbes. Instead, Dr. Tine Clausen, author of the BJOB report, told the BBC that people should "avoid unnecessary [Caesarean] sections, aim for breast feeding for at least half a year and to have early skin-to-skin contact — natural ways of transferring microbes."

But this is not the first time that vaginal seeding has been criticized by medical professionals. Last April, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center released a statement caution against the C-section trend, noting that, while the February 2016 study was promising,

We need a lot more research into the success and safety of such a practice before we start recommending this to pregnant women who need a C-section.

It's understandable to want the best for your child, especially if they were delivered via C-section. But parents should avoid investing in a controversial practice that may not provide you with the best care in the first place.