"Lotus birth"—the practice of allowing the umbilical cord and placenta to detach naturally from the newborn—has reportedly been around for centuries in Balinese tradition and certain aboriginal cultures, but it's just now hitting the American trend-piece circuit. In typical births, the umbilical cord is clamped and severed, and the placenta discarded (or bronzed or scrambled in an omelette or planted 'neath a flowering bower to nurture the land as it once nurtured your young). In a lotus birth, the umbilical cord naturally shuts itself off and detaches within 10 days.
Proponents of lotus birth say that leaving the cord attached helps babies bond with their mothers and allows newborns to absorb "a final transfusion of blood cells rich in stem cells and immunoglobulin that theoretically can help the infant fight off infections." But, doctors counter, that transfusion can happen within the first few minutes after birth, allowing for the medical cord clampage and without the necessity of dragging a big bloody placenta around. So.
Here's a kindly doctor talking about it:
“On one hand we want the safest possible delivery on the other hand it’s a natural process,” said Van Hook. “It’s an area [where we need]to figure out how to balance the joy of having a baby with safety.”
According to Van Hook, the riskiest aspect of “lotus births” is ensuring that the area around the umbilical is kept clean so that there is no risk of infection and that the placenta and umbilical cord don’t impact the baby’s care.
But while not traditional, Van Hook says he wouldn’t mind letting the parents decide if they want to have a “lotus birth” as long as there were no underlying medial issues.
“If I was taking care of a patient, that’s some of the choices people make,” said Van Hook. “They’re empowered to make their choices.”
Honestly, I think people should do whatever they goddamn want with their placentas. I personally am in the "throw it in the garbage" camp, but I'm a pretty strident non-spiritual killjoy. I also feel like the idea that lotus births are somehow "closer to nature" is spurious. Animal moms LOVE to eat delicious placenta! Like, immediately! Animals are hungry! Seems like a more "natural" birth would be to gnaw through your own umbilical cord immediately and then eat the placenta raw. Oh, and also probably die a lot because you're an animal and you don't have infrastructure like hospitals. There are plenty of things we do that aren't "natural" that actually make our lives better, and so far I'm not convinced that the benefits of lotus birth outweigh the malodorousness.
Speaking of malodorousness, here's Wikipedia with a bunch of words about lotus birth placentas that caused me to make lemon-face for one hour:
Excess fluids are wiped off the placenta, which is then placed in an open bowl or wrapped in permeable cloth and kept in close proximity to the newborn. Air is allowed to circulate around the placenta to dry it, and to avoid its becoming malodorous. Sea salt is often applied to the placenta to help dry it out. Sometimes essential oils, such as lavender, or powdered herbs, such as goldenseal or neem, are also applied to encourage drying, to help to neutralize the smell of decomposition, and for their antibacterial properties. If drying aids are not applied, the well-aired placenta will develop a distinct, musky scent which can be halted by directly planting it or by refrigerated storage after the first postpartum week.
Seriously, I want people to be happy, and if any of you choose to kick it with your lavender-scented malodorous placenta for 10 days in the name of baby-bonding, I will not clown. But I'm just wondering if there isn't...a better, less musky way? Like...just basic snoogling? Isn't that enough?
Photo credit: Getty.