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Seeding a “C-Section Born” Baby

c-section-photoThis photo was taken after my client gave birth with a cesarean section. Before surgery, this mom requested her doctor insert a piece of gauze into her vagina; which was used seconds after she gave birth to swab the inside of her baby’s mouth and rub around her eyes and on her skin.

This somewhat new practice can help colonize baby’s gut with beneficial microflora and give her or him a strong start in life. Seeding is getting more attention from mothers in need of a c-section and doctors who perform them.

How ‘seeding’ works for a c-section baby:

During a c-section birth, the baby is not in contact with mom’s vaginal flora. Instead, the baby will receive bacteria from the air, skin of anyone touched, breast-milk if breastfed, etc. This random bacteria will be what constitutes baby’s primary colonization, and depending on what those bacteria are, can make baby more immune or more susceptible to harmful pathogens/illnesses; especially down the road with gut flora related issues (i.e. allergies, autism, type 1 diabetes, asthma, eczema).

After a c-section birth, a baby’s bacterial community most resemble the bacteria in birthing environment.

How seeding works for a vaginal baby:

During a vaginal birth, and once the amniotic sac ruptures, a baby’s gut (from mouth to anus) immediately begin to be colonized by mom’s vaginal flora. As the contractions pulse and push the baby out, the baby’s face rubs up against the mucous membranes of the birth canal. As the baby moves through the vagina, the baby’s face and often an open mouth is in direct contact with the mom’s vaginal fluids which are rich in flora. Baby licks, sucks, gulps …. hence ‘the big gulp‘. These fluids get all up in baby’s nose and eyes too.

This is the process of inoculation with Nature’s antibiotic or a ‘bacterial baptism’ as others have put it. These bacterial colonies continue to plant themselves inside the baby as he or she moves down and out of the birth canal. These bacterial colonies grow and multiply by the second. By the time a baby is born, it’s literally coated with a vast and diverse quantity of microbes from its mom. In this light, the entire birth process is more than a baby coming out of the mother’s body; it is the birth process is a major colonizing process.

After a vaginal birth, a baby’s bacterial community most resemble the bacteria in mom’s vagina.

restoring c-section baby microbiota

From: Boston meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (Courtesy Dr. Dominguez-Bello)

Main concerns:

If mom’s vaginal health is imbalanced or she has an infection then there is a risk of spreading that same infection to baby. This is why moms are screened for healthy microbial ecology prior to “seeding”. This is when the doctor or midwife checks to see if mom has HIV, GBS+, STD, etc.

Seeding is not fecal transplant. And though it might sound gross to some, the female body is designed to birth a baby through the vagina and that baby is doing just what birth designed it to do …. to get rubbed around the birth canal as it comes down and out. Now, there are times when a cesarean birth is absolutely necessary and for these babies seeding might just be a good way to mimic the vaginal birthing process. A holistic experience if you will.

Photo sourced here.

My notes:

This can all be discouraging to the woman giving birth via c-section. This is not my intention. My intention is to equip the reader with knowledge to approach a c-section birth in a different way. To talk to your doctor or midwife about ‘seeding’ prior to birth in the event that a c-section is needed. You can also ask that your new baby be placed naked on your warm, naked chest and you can intentionally not shower for couple days prior to birth if you know when you will be giving birth to increase skin microbes. You can choose to breastfeed as human milk contains a plethora of naturally occurring prebiotics and probiotics to support good bacteria. If you can’t breastfeed for one reason or another then you could supplement with an infant probiotic to help baby develop a healthy microbiome. Another thing to keep in mind is the placenta has been shown to pass various microbes in utero via the umbilical cord and in the amniotic sac itself. You can read about more ways to booster your baby’s inner ecosystem here.

“We think that one of the reasons that babies born by C-section are at increased risk for certain diseases is because they don’t receive that first beneficial exposure to their mother’s vaginal microbiome.” ~ Suchitra Hourigan, pediatric gastroenterologist at Inova.

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