While Caesarean section (CS) delivery can be lifesaving for both mothers and their babies, children born by CS have an approximately 50 percent increased risk of childhood obesity, along with an increased risk of asthma and allergies. It is believed that the risk of diseases associated with CS delivery may be due to the lack of mother-to-newborn transfer of beneficial vaginal microbes at birth, which are known to play a role in immune and metabolic development.
"Vaginal microbiome seeding" is a simple procedure in which a sample of the mother's vaginal microbiome is swabbed onto her baby’s face and body shortly after delivery. In a pilot study, vaginal microbiome seeding of CS-delivered newborns was associated with an increased abundance of bacteria typically missing or reduced in CS. Therefore, it may restore the exposure of CS-delivered newborns to their mother’s beneficial vaginal microbes. However, this study was too small to determine effects on early childhood health outcomes such as obesity.
At Inova Children's Hospital, we are conducting a novel randomized controlled trial studying vaginal microbiome seeding in newborns delivered by CS. We thoroughly document each baby’s health throughout his or her first three years of life to fully examine microbiome development and childhood health outcomes through regular stool samples and health screenings. If vaginal microbiome seeding is shown to decrease the risk of adverse childhood health outcomes in newborns born by CS, this simple procedure could improve the health of our children and change the practice of obstetrics as we know it.
Inova Fairfax Hospital
3300 Gallows Road
Falls Church, Virginia 22042
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18. Hourigan SK, Moutihno T, Berenz A, Guha P, Papin J, Oliphant S, Baveja R, Baker , Vilboux T, Levy S, Deopujari, V, Nataro J, Niederhuber J, Moore S. Gram-negative microbiota blooms in premature twins discordant for parenteral nutrition associated cholestasis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. Jan 2020.
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20. Mueller NT, Hourigan SK, Hoffman DE, Levy L, von Rosenvinge E, Chou B, Dominguez-Bello MG. Bacterial Baptism: Scientific, Medical and Regulatory Issues Raised by Vaginal Seeding of C-Section-Born Babies. Accepted, Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics Jan 2020.