C-section babies may benefit from vaginal swab

Babies that are delivered by caesarean section may benefit from being swabbed with fluid from their mothers' vaginas, according to a new study.

Research carried out by doctors at the New York University Langone Medical Center in the US led to the discovery that babies can still benefit from the properties of the microbiomes found in the vagina even if they have been born by c-section, provided that midwives ensure they are swabbed with fluid from this part of the body.

The World Health Organization recommends that no more than ten to 15 per cent of global births should be caesarean sections, but in some parts of the world the actual rate is much higher, with 32.2 per cent of all US births being c-sections, marking a seven-fold increase since the 1960s.

Therefore, this means that a significant number of newborns are missing out on the beneficial bacteria found in their mothers' vaginas, with research showing that babies who are not exposed to this are more likely to suffer with asthma, obesity and autoimmune diseases in later life.

With this in mind, taking a swab from the mother one hour before the delivery could help to boost the baby's immune system if applied two minutes after birth.

Following this, it was found that the babies who had been exposed to the vaginal microbiomes had higher levels of the beneficial lactobacillus and bacteroides in comparison to those delivered via caesarean section but who weren't exposed to the fluid.

Lead author of the study Maria Dominguez-Bello concluded: "Larger studies that measure the effect of early microbiome restoration on health outcomes would begin to answer whether or not it averts future disease risk.

"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."