21 March 2016

The vaginal swab technique for C-section babies

Although it may sound really gross, this is a revolutionising yet simple technique that has been devised to help C-section babies get the best microbial starter pack from their mums (find out what this pack is here).

Indeed, while C-section is an essential tool for mothers and babies for who natural birth may put them at risk, those little bundles of joy are missing some vital ingredients they would have encountered on a natural way out: mum's vaginal microbes.

However, in many countries, it is possible to simply choose when to have your baby. It may seem the next logical step in our 'civilised' and sterile way of living but what about those friendly microbes? More and more scientists are realising that these first microbes baby encounters on his way out determine the level of risk of developing many diseases (coming soon).

When the wife of one of those experts in microbiota gave birth by emergency C-section, he didn't take any chance and applied the vaginal swab technique to his own baby. I recently read that one year on, their baby was very healthy and had not shown any of the signs C-section babies are most at risk such as allergies and eczema.

How to do a vaginal swab?
From Dominguez-Bello et al, 2016.*

The technique consists in keeping a sterile wipe inside the mum's vagina up until the last minute. When baby is out through mummy's tummy, the wipe is applied on baby's mouth, face, and then the rest of his body as if he had been pushed out through mum's vagina with maximum contact in the mouth, then face, then body.

A super recent study* examined how efficient this technique is. Their results showed that gut, oral, and skin bacterial communities of these swabbed newborns were enriched in vaginal bacteria during the first 30 days of life, similar to vaginal birth babies' and, most importantly, completely different from unswabbed C-section babies' - thereby demonstrating the effectiveness of the technique.

Would you ask for a vaginal swab if your baby needs to be born by C-section?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, I'd love to read them.

*The study I'm referring to is: Dominguez-Bello MG, et al. Nat Med 2016; doi:10.1038/nm.4039. 

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