By: Sasha Klemawesch, MD
If you haven’t heard of Bacterial Baptisms, you are not alone. However, in some communities, the trend of vaginal seeding or “baptism by bacteria” has started to really catch on.
The idea behind the movement started due to the theory that when babies are born via C-section, it is a very sterile procedure, and they end up lacking the immediate exposure to the normal bacterial flora that infants for centuries experienced as they made their way through the birth canal into the world for their first breath. Some researchers postulated that with the ever-increasing number of cesareans performed in western medicine and therefore, growing number of children who lacked that initial exposure to bacterial flora, could that in some way be related to or partly responsible for the also ever-increasing prevalence of various autoimmune disorders, atopy, obesity, and other illnesses that continue to rise in prevalence of the same populations?
It seems like a sound idea, especially since the Hygiene Hypotheses is so widely known and accepted, which is why there have been a growing number of mothers who choose to practice Vaginal Seeding; a process in which an infant born via C-section will immediately be swabbed with gauzes that have been instilled inside the mothers’ vagina for a period of time prior to delivery in order to transfer the normal vaginal microbiome onto the infant. A small study in 2016 found that this practice was safe and possibly beneficial, however now there are more voices on the other side raising concerns; for instance, some argue that babies already are exposed to normal healthy bacteria via contact with mom’s skin and breast milk and that they don’t need the extra load. Some say that there are too many other confounding factors, and it is unlikely that the lack of that initial exposure to vaginal bacteria is really the biggest issue. Both sides agree that larger and more long-term research studies are needed before making the ultimate decision. So, for now, if you are expecting in the near future, talk to your OB about what her thoughts are on the topic to make the best decision for you and for your little one.