It may sound strange, but some women who give birth by caesarean section (C-section) are covering their newborn in fluid swabbed from their vagina! A baby born vaginally is exposed to a plethora of different bacteria as it comes down the birth canal; these bacteria set up the child’s microbiome, (bacteria in human skin, guts, and mouths), which is what enables their body to defend against all kinds of diseases. Babies delivered by C-section acquire a microbiota that differs from that of vaginally delivered infants, and C-section delivery has been associated with increased risk for immune and metabolic disorders.
Based on a pilot study published in the journal Nature Medicine, Dr. Sunanda Kane discusses how babies born by C-section may receive benefits from being swabbed by their mother’s birth fluid, thus restoring the balance of the immune system. The procedure involves taking a swab from the mother's vagina and wiping it over the baby's mouth, eyes, face and skin from head to toe, shortly after birth by C-section. The hope is that by exposing a C-section baby to its mother’s vaginal fluid, the child’s microbiome and immune system will become more similar to that of a child born vaginally, and their risk of disease will reduce. Although the work is promising, more research is needed to confirm the findings. According to Dr. Maria Dominguez-Bello, who led the research: "The current study represents proof of a principle in a small cohort, and shows that our method is worthy of further development as we seek to determine the health impact of microbial differences.”
Read the full study online here.
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Dr. Kane is a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic.
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