In an effort to have a more natural birthing experience, some new moms have been embracing the concept of a lotus birth — the practice of refraining from cutting off the baby's umbilical cord and letting it fall off naturally instead.
The entire process takes between three and 10 days, depending on the humidity. And although some women think that having a lotus birth may help with the bonding process or that their newborn may reap some sort of medical benefit, like a stronger immune system, from having access to cord blood for longer, most medical experts don't recommend keeping the placenta attached to your newborn.
Dr. Jean S. Moorjani, a pediatric medical education hospitalist at Orlando Health, told POPSUGAR that although cord blood has numerous health benefits, once the placenta is removed from mom, everything changes.
"The placenta is an organ that is filled with blood, and once it is removed from the mother's uterus, it no longer has fresh and healthy blood," explained Dr. Moorjani." The remaining blood in the placenta has no way to receive blood that has oxygen in it, and the placental tissue will die."
"We absolutely do not recommend leaving the placenta and umbilical cord attached to the baby after delivery."
Those women who have opted for a lotus birth don't just keep their placenta out in the open. Many moms purchase placenta bags, cotton totes that hold the placenta as well as salts and herbs to preserve it. But unfortunately, even if the placenta is tucked away, it's not enough to ensure an infection won't occur.
"This dead tissue is at high risk for growing bacteria and infection, and as pediatricians, we absolutely do not recommend leaving the placenta and umbilical cord attached to the baby after delivery because of the high risk of infection to the baby," said Dr. Moorjani. "Babies that are born healthy still don't have a completely strong immune system to fight infections the same way an adult can, and we need to do everything we can to help protect them."
More importantly, experts say that there hasn't been nearly enough research done to recommend it.
"There is also zero scientific evidence that a lotus birth demonstrates any positive health benefits for the baby," said Dr. Moorjani.
Dr. Christine Greves, an Ob-Gyn at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, agrees that the risk far outweighs any potential benefits.
"Physicians give advice based on evidence-based medicine and there is currently none for this practice, and therefore, I wouldn't recommend it to my patients," said Dr. Greves.
Still, if a pregnant woman is considering having a lotus birth, she should make her Ob-Gyn aware of the fact ASAP.
"A woman who is considering having a lotus birth should discuss this with the pediatrician who will be caring for her baby," advised Dr. Greves. "She should also discuss it with her Ob-Gyn to see if she has had infections during pregnancy, such as Group B Strep, [a type of bacterial infection that can be found in the uterus, placenta, or urinary tract]."
If so, these moms-to-be should especially refrain from opting for a lotus birth as bacteria can build up quickly in dead tissue and potentially cause the newborn to get an infection.