The World Health Organization recommends delayed umbilical cord clamping (not earlier than one minute after birth) for improved maternal and infant health outcomes. But some people are delaying this procedure for significantly longer (we’re talking days here, people). Here’s what you need to know about lotus births.
What are lotus births? Also known as umbilical nonseverance, lotus birth refers to the practice of leaving the umbilical cord unclamped after childbirth so that the baby is left attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates. This usually happens 3 to 12 days after the baby is born.
Wait, how does that even work? To do this, the parents carry the placenta (that’s still connected to the newborn baby) in a bowl or pouch. Those who’ve done it recommend coating the placenta with salt and herbs, in order to avoid any, um, odors.
And why are people doing this? Advocates of lotus births claim that prolonged contact with the placenta can provide added health benefits, such as increased mother-baby bonding and higher infant immunity. Some also choose lotus births for spiritual reasons, believing it provides a gentler transition from womb to world.
And what do the experts say? While The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not have an official position on lotus births, we chatted with Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, who told us that there is zero medical evidence that this practice benefits the baby and that it could actually be harmful. “Potential risks include infection to the placenta and baby, jaundice, polycythemia and a foul odor of the placenta over days associated with this practice,” she explains. “This archaic practice with unproven health benefits does not outweigh the potential dangers associated with this unusual request for a birth plan.”
Bottom line: We’re all for moms-to-be feeling empowered by their birthing choices, but this seems like a weird and potentially dangerous practice that just isn’t worth the risk. (Also, yuck.) Here’s an idea for those who want to honor the placenta: Embrace the Jamaican tradition of burying it in the ground and planting a small sapling that grows along with the child instead. No placenta pouch necessary.