The practice of ‘seeding’ babies born by Caesarean (putting a gauze swab in the vagina for 24 hours beforehand and then wiping the baby’s mouth and skin with that gauze after birth) is attracting attention (see ‘“Vaginal seeding’ of babies born by C-section could pose infection risk, doctors warn”). The hope is that exposure to bacteria will boost the baby’s immune system, thereby preventing illness and disease in the future, such as asthma and allergies.
The charity does not recommend this practice because there is no properly conducted clinical trial that has clearly evaluated the risks and benefits of seeding. To date, published data are very small and have not shown evidence of benefit – a number of trials are underway, and we look forward to seeing the results once published.
In the UK, where testing for group B Strep carriage is rarely available in the NHS, there is the potential Mums could inadvertently be exposing their babies to this bacterium, as well as others such as virulent coliforms, and viruses. While most babies exposed to group B Strep won’t develop infection – and we have not heard any reports of babies developing GBS infection as a result of this practice – it remains a theoretical risk, and of course group B Strep infection can be devastating.
This is yet another reason why good quality tests for group B Strep carriage should be made available to all pregnant women so they can make an informed decision about which is right for them and their babies.