Last week, xoJane published an essay extolling the benefits of the “lotus birth”: the practice of keeping a newborn baby attached to its placenta until the umbilical cord naturally detaches.
According to Adele Allen, the essay’s author and proud mother of lotus child Ulysses, the minor inconveniences of leaving the umbilical cord un-severed — which includes waiting for the placenta to release from the mother’s body (Allen’s took five hours), washing the placenta daily, storing it in a waterproof pouch, and carrying it around with the baby — are nothing compared to the benefits. The essay is a little vague about what exactly these benefits are. Allen mentions the intense bonding that resulted from being physically attached to her baby for an additional five hours after birth; plus the oxygen, iron, and stem cells the baby might miss out on were the cord clamped too soon. Other benefits, Allen explains, are “of a more spiritual nature.”
All in all, seems like a great plan! But no.
Instead of being a magical period of placenta-powered intimacy, it turns out that lotus births can be quite dangerous. Writing for Slate, Jessica Grose points out that while some evidence shows that there are benefits to waiting a few minutes after birth to cut the cord, there is no evidence that keeping the baby attached to the placenta long-term is beneficial at all. In fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists weighed in on the practice in 2008 (when it was apparently trending among a very small number of women in the U.K.), stating the risk of infection in the placenta spreading to the baby. “The placenta is particularly prone to infection as it contains blood. Within a short time after birth, once the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating, the placenta has no circulation and is essentially dead tissue,” a spokesperson for the RCOG said.
Grose chides xoJane for publishing medically irresponsible click-bait, noting that this isn’t the first time Allen has been spouting misinformation on the Internet. Her personal blog includes a post mentioning that she isn’t vaccinating her child out of fear of links to autism — a medical myth that has been repeatedly proven false.