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Did You 'Lotus Birth'?

Photograph by Getty Images

Apparently, there is a new birthing trend that’s growing in popularity among parents across the globe, specifically among the all-natural types. It’s called lotus birthing. What could that mean? Where does your mind go with that? Somewhere “spiritual," right? Do you picture a woman giving birth on a bed of lotus flowers? Or perhaps it makes you think of a woman in the “lotus” yoga pose wherein she meditates until her lady “lotus” blooms and a baby comes out.

Personally, I visualize a woman wearing organic cotton palazzo pants, her hair drawn up in a scarf, smelling like patchouli, giving birth to her son, Nepal, in the back room of a metaphysical book store. Well, whatever you’re visualizing, if it’s beautiful and spiritually inspiring, it’s not that. Actually, if you’re visualizing something that makes any sense at all, it’s not that, either.

Get ready to dry heave.

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As it turns out, lotus birthing is a birthing method where you leave the baby’s placenta attached to the baby by the umbilical cord after she’s born until it falls off naturally, which could take up to 10 days. I repeat, you leave the bag of bloody tissue—which is now outside the uterus, so it is dying—connected to your newborn for over a week. I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure that even Deepak Chopra would throw up a little in his mouth upon seeing (and smelling) that.

Proponents of this “unique” birthing method claim that the baby benefits, physically and emotionally, from being forced to chill with the smelly blob in a number of ways. Lotus Birthers believe that this method decreases the chance of infection to baby because there is no wound created at the umbilical site from cutting the cord. They believe that umbilical cord non-severance is a gentler way to bring a baby into the world because it allows the baby to stay connected to his former life source and the cord, which he is used to gripping for comfort, until he is “ready” to let go. Another major benefit of not hacking the sack is that, according to Lotus Birthers, it allows a complete transfer of placental/cord blood into the baby for ultimate nourishment.

Obstetricians aren’t drinking the Kombucha.

Who came up with this idea, anyway?

Doctors insist that there are no medical benefits to having the post-birth placenta pal. Obstetrician Pat O’Brien, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists expressed his concerns and reasons for discouraging this practice to The Daily Mail. O’Brien stated, “If you wanted to pick an environment that encourages bacteria to grow you probably could not do better than to leave the placenta attached after birth.” He also said, “Soon after the baby is born there is no longer any circulation in the placenta, so it is dead tissue and full of blood, making it the perfect culture medium for bacteria.” So keeping the placenta attached actually increases the risk of infection, according to Dr. O’Brien. Who came up with this idea, anyway?

There is record of early Western American settlers practicing umbilical cord non-severance. It then made a comeback in the 1980s when it was brought back to use by yoga practitioners. I have to think that the pioneers’ reasons for doing so were far more practical than spiritual, as they let nothing go to waste. But what do I know? Maybe every night after their journey through harsh conditions, they all rolled out their yoga mats and got balanced. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

But today, it seems that the spiritual benefits play a big part in most women’s decisions to practice lotus birthing. Independent midwife Deborah Rhodes told The Daily Mail, “The health benefits to babies of delayed clamping—waiting up to 25 minutes until the cord stops pulsing before cutting it—are now widely recognized in hospitals. The advantages of leaving the cord and placenta attached beyond that point are more spiritual.” And I’m all for spiritual. I love that shit. But how spiritual can things get when it smells like you’ve left a big ribeye in your trunk for three hot days?

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But to each their own. I prefer to give birth in a hospital, to see my husband cut the umbilical cord, and to not carry a bloody “friend” around for the first several days of my baby’s life. I understand that what I prefer isn’t right for everyone. And maybe the lotus birth camp deserves some credit for figuring out a clever way to keep visitors at bay for their first days at home with a new baby. But the smell, how do they deal with that smell? No amount of salt and patchouli mixture could make that right for me. Annnndddd, back to the dry heave...

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