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Why Scientists Are Working on a “Bacterial Wet Wipe” for C-Section Babies

I have good news and bad news for you.

The bad news is that babies who are born through C-section have been missing out on some crucial and beneficial bacteria from their moms when they bypass the birth canal.

But the good news? Scientists have been testing a new “bacterial wet wipe” to ensure that all babies are getting the good bacteria they need, even when they are born through C-section.

Recent studies have shown that there is some important bacterial mother-to-baby transferring that goes on during labor and vaginal birth. Long story short, babies born through C-section are missing out on that bacterial transfer, and it can actually affect them in a big way for life. Research suggests that everything, from our immune systems to our mental health, can be traced back to the foundations that those invisible bacteria start building from, before we are even born and the actual way we are born.

But the reality is, sometimes C-sections are necessary and save lives, so doctors have been working on a solution for this problem. Which is why a new study that looked at the “bacterial wet wipe” is great news for mothers who require a scheduled C-section for their babies. The study found that soaking a gauze pad in a mother’s vaginal secretions by having her place the gauze in her birth canal before she goes to surgery and, in scientific terms, “slather” those babies with the mommy wet wipe, showed super promising results. The doctors focused specifically on the mouth and face of the baby and then wiped down the rest of the body as well.

“Although the long-term health consequences of restoring the microbiota of C-section-delivered infants remain unclear, our results demonstrate that vaginal microbes can be partially restored at birth in C-section-delivered babies,” the study concluded.

While the babies who were swabbed with the special bacterial wet wipe showed positive microbial changes, they didn’t have all of the bacteria that vaginally-born babies did. Still, it’s better than nothing. And only time will tell if the bacteria will matter long-term for the swabbed babies, so the scientists will continue to test the children as they grow to see if the bacteria they introduced sticks around and makes an impact on their health later in life.

“We think that the epidemic increase in asthma, allergies, Type 1 diabetes, Celiac disease, obesity are related to disturbances in the microbiome,” the study’s lead author told NPR.

There’s also good news for parents who may be worried about the possible effects of an emergency C-section, as a new study showed that babies born by emergency C-sections actually have less health problems long-term than babies born by planned C-sections. Docs guess this has something to do with — you know what’s coming — the bacteria that gets passed from mom to baby during labor. So babies that go through any amount of labor get some of those bacterial benefits, even if they wind up coming into the world through surgery.

The bottom line is that all of this new research is focusing on giving babies the best possible start to life. So if you are a parent planning a C-section, it might be helpful to talk to your doctor about introducing your own special “mommy birth canal wet wipe” to your baby with your surgery. There are screening processes for the mother to go through to ensure that the baby only gets the good stuff as well as antibiotics needed before surgery, and the study’s researchers made sure it was clear that DIY-style will not fly for these wet wipes.

In other words, don’t try this at home, folks.

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