A baby and the placenta
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December 05, 2018 04:50 PM

It’s a classic scene in childbirth — once the baby comes out, the partner ceremoniously cuts the umbilical cord that nourished the child for the nine months of pregnancy. But some new parents are skipping that step and opting for ‘lotus births.’

This childbirth trend involves leaving the placenta and umbilical cord attached to the baby until it falls off naturally in about a week or two. The idea is that both are filled with important nutrients, and it’s best to keep them coming after gestation for as long as possible.

But does it actually help the baby — and is it safe? PEOPLE Health Squad member Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN at Yale University School of Medicine, says there are likely no benefit to lotus births — and it could lead to infections.

“From a medicinal point of view, I don’t think this offers folks very much value,” she tells PEOPLE. “And of course the placenta could become a potential source of infection to the baby through its umbilicus.”

Minkin says she hasn’t worked with any parents who requested a lotus birth at her Connecticut-based practice, but she has seen something similar.

“One practice that many women do want — and most obstetricians are happy with this — is to delay cutting the umbilical cord until one stops feeling pulsations in the cord. That is done to maximize the blood flow to the baby from the placenta and to minimize anemia,” she says. “However, once pulsations stop, I don’t think there’s much data showing that the baby receives any significantly more blood to increase its blood volume.”

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The best way to get those blood-flow benefits that parents are looking for, Minkin says, may be breastfeeding.

“Suckling will increase oxytocin release, and besides being a good hormone to help mom and baby with bonding, it will help contract the uterus and minimize blood loss.”

Plus, she adds, lotus births sound unnecessarily cumbersome.

“From a strictly logistical viewpoint, I think it would be awkward to be carrying around a placenta attached to a baby,” Minkin says.

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