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  • Writer's pictureBridget Supple

Vaginal Swabbing - new study shows promising results

Babies born by cesarean section don’t have the same healthy bacteria as those born vaginally, but a new study for the first time finds that these natural bacteria can be restored.

The human microbiota consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms – some beneficial, some harmful -- that live in and on our bodies. Women naturally provide these pioneer colonizers to their babies’ sterile bodies during labor and birth, helping their immune system to develop. But antibiotics and C-sections disturb this passing of microbes and are related to increased risks of obesity, asthma and metabolic diseases.

Following on from her pioneering work on partially restoring the microbiome to caesarean born babies Professor Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, the senior author of this new study and famous for her role in the film Microbirth (see resources section) has been part of an extended study showing that vaginal seeding can help restore the microbiome to caesarean born babies.

The researchers followed 177 babies from four countries over the first year of their lives -- 98 were born vaginally and 79 were born by C-section, 30 of which were swabbed with a maternal vaginal gauze right after birth.

Lab analysis showed that the microbiota of the C-section babies swabbed with their mother’s vaginal fluids was close to that of vaginally born babies. Also, the mother’s vaginal microbiomes on the day of birth were similar to other areas of their bodies (gut, mouth and skin), showing that maternal vaginal fluids help to colonize bacteria across their babies’ bodies.

This was the first large observational study to show that restoring a C-section baby’s natural exposure to maternal vaginal microbes at birth normalizes the microbiome development during their first year of life. The researchers said the next step is conducting randomized clinical trials to determine if the microbiota normalization translates into disease protection.

“Further research is needed to determine which bacteria protect against obesity, asthma and allergies, diseases with underlying inflammation,” said senior author Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. “Our results support the hypothesis that acquiring maternal vaginal microbes normalizes microbiome development in the babies.”

While vaginal seeding has been suggested as a possible aid to restoring the microbiome, this study takes us a step closer to it's use.

Please remember that the women in the study were all tested and had negative results for the standard of care tests of STDs, including HIV, Chlamydia and Group B Streptococcus (GBS, standard test at 36 weeks by culturing), no signs of vaginosis or viral infections as determined by their obstetrician and a vaginal pH<4.5 at 1–2 h preceding the procedure.

It is currently not recommended for practice but if the research finds it is safe and beneficial, it could be a game changer for caesarean born babies.

(From Rutgers University)

You can access the aritcle here:

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1 Comment

Rebecca Hitchen
Rebecca Hitchen
Jun 08

Is there an article or some information explaining how this is performed in hospitals?

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