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.
For more information about IBD, visit mayoclinic.org/IBD.
Dr. Kane is a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic.