Vaginal seeding, also known as microbirthing, is a procedure whereby vaginal fluids (and hence vaginal microbes) are applied to a new-born child delivered by caesarean section. The purpose of the technique is to recreate the natural transfer of bacteria that the baby gets during a vaginal birth. It involves placing swabs in the mother’s vagina, and then wiping them into the baby’s face, mouth, eyes and skin
Infants conceived vaginally are exposed to beneficial microorganisms known as microbiota when they travel down the birth canal. The baby is exposed to the mother’s vaginal microbes that wash over the child in the birth canal, which coves the skin, and enters the baby’s eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. These microbes often travel down into the gut after being swallowed. It is said that these microbes are important in the postnatal development of the immune system of the baby.
In the event that a C-section is done before labour starts or before a woman’s water breaks, the infant won’t come into contact with maternal vaginal fluid or bacteria. Instead, they come in contact with skin microbes, a very different set of species. These differences, in turn, have been associated with increased risks of asthma, allergies, obesity, and immune deficiencies. Thus, these differences appear more often in infants after a caesarean delivery than after a vaginal delivery, according to certain epidemiological data.
The purpose behind the practice of vaginal seeding or micro birthing is that it allows an infant delivered via caesarean section to come in contact with microbes from the birth canal. The expectation is that this may boost their gut bacteria and lessen the danger of health issues normally associated with caesarian infants. It contributes to the seeding of the infant gut.
It is unclear whether vaginal seeding has long term benefits or whether it is safe. In 2016 a small study was published in the Journal Nature Medicine to look into the benefits of vaginal seeding. However, the study authors acknowledged that the consequences of vaginal seeding remain unclear due to limited data.