Bacterial Baptism: Scientific, Medical, and Regulatory Issues Raised by Vaginal Seeding of C-Section-Born Babies

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 47 (4):568-578 (2019)
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Abstract

Several lines of evidence suggest that children born via Cesarean section are at greater risk for adverse health outcomes including allergies, asthma and obesity. Vaginal seeding is a medical procedure in which infants born by C-section are swabbed immediately after birth with vaginal secretions from the mother. This procedure has been proposed as a way to transfer the mother's vaginal microbiome to the child, thereby restoring the natural exposure that occurs during vaginal birth that is interrupted in the case of babies born via C-section. Preliminary evidence indicates partial restoration of microbes. However, there is insufficient evidence to determine the health benefits of the procedure. Several studies, including trial, are currently underway. At the same time, in the clinic setting, doctors are increasingly being asked to by expectant mothers to have their babies seeded. This article reports on the current research on this procedure and the issues it raises for regulators, researchers, physicians, and patients.

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