Controversial 'lotus birth' keeps umbilical cord attached to baby



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Posted on March 4, 2010 at 11:47 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

It's a moment most moms and dads remember well: When baby is born and the dad gets the honor of cutting the cord.  But now, a new trend is causing debate. 

Christine Monteith's childbirth experience was different than most.

"I carried the placenta with the baby," she said.

Christine decided to have what's called a lotus birth.

"The cord is left uncut and the cord and the placenta then stay with the baby until it naturally falls off, which tends to be about three to four days," said Jennifer Gagnon, certified midwife.

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord connects the baby to the mother, but after delivery, Dr. Michele Curtis, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, says its role is finished.

"After the first three minutes or so when the blood vessels have spasmed and the cord has clamped itself off, there is no more benefit for the child to remain attached," said Curtis.

However, the Web is filled with videos of people, like Christine, who disagree. They believe the cord also has a spiritual and emotional connection to the baby.

"We covered the placenta with sea salts and dried lavender flowers before we covered it in cloth," said Christine.

Dr. Curtis worries about infection.

"The placenta is filled with blood. It's filled with different types of cells, so it's a rich environment for bacteria to grow in. So you have this long bridge between the placenta and the baby and bacteria can climb up that bridge," said Curtis.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has no stance on the issue. Their British counterpart believes women have a right to decide, but should know the risks. They point out no research exists on lotus births, but advocates believe they're making the right choice

"It is the most natural and non-invasive, non-violent way of giving birth," said Gagnon. "I would say live and let live. No one is asking them to do a lotus birth."

Lotus births are becoming more common among home birthing advocates. In a lotus birth, once the cord falls off, the placenta is thrown away.