Are Alternative Birthing Practices a Good Idea?

Feb. 18, 2022 — Can I eat my placenta? Is a water delivery secure for my child? These are a few the questions that extra individuals have been asking Sarah Pachtman, MD, over the previous couple of years amid a increase in various birthing practices.

Pachtman, an obstetrics and gynecology physician and a specialist in maternal-fetal medication at Northwell Well being in New York Metropolis, and the voice behind the @healthymamadoc Instagram account, says curiosity in these practices has been fueled — not less than partially — by the pandemic.

“There’s quite a lot of mistrust within the medical system and quite a lot of mistrust in the way in which physicians apply now. And I feel COVID and the pandemic amplified that lots,” she says.

Current curiosity in various practices has included water births, encapsulating and consuming the placenta, and even vaginal seeding, or smearing a child born by C-section with vaginal fluid with the purpose of creating a standard microbiome within the child. Some have additionally expressed curiosity in lotus births, wherein dad and mom depart the umbilical twine intact after delivery till it falls of by itself, with the goal of giving the newborn additional blood and vitamins from the still-attached twine.

A latest search of the web market Etsy, for instance, turned up a whole bunch of hits for merchandise concerned in lotus births, together with kits with “lotus delivery natural mix, the lotus delivery bag, seven disposable bag liners and a roll of gauze for wrapping the umbilical twine to maintain child heat whereas nonetheless connected.” New dad and mom may even purchase a onesie for his or her newborn that boasts, “My Mother Ate My Placenta.”

However few of those practices have been studied. Scientists and medical doctors lack a transparent concept of their advantages — if there are any — or the doable dangers to mother or father and child. Since they don’t have proof of profit, Pachtman and plenty of of her colleagues don’t advocate these practices.

Right here’s what we all know — and don’t know — concerning the security and advantages of two much-discussed various delivery practices: water births and consuming the placenta.

Water Labor and Births

When speaking about water births, it’s essential to tell apart between laboring in water and giving birth whereas submerged in water.

Laboring in water in the course of the first section of being pregnant has been linked to ache aid amongst individuals with wholesome, uncomplicated pregnancies carried fully to time period.

“Definitely, in chosen sufferers, that may be a affordable choice,” says Alison Cahill, MD, a maternal-fetal medication specialist at UT Well being Austin’s Ladies’s Well being Institute. Cahill can be chair of the medical consensus committee in obstetrics for the American Faculty of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Cahill says she is extra involved about girls giving delivery whereas submerged. Main medical associations, just like the ACOG, do not support this practice due to an absence of proof that it does extra good than hurt. Cahill worries about infants drowning, whereas Pachtman stresses that any house delivery could be dangerous ought to an emergency come up.

An infection, whereas uncommon, continues to be a sensible concern, as there could be devastating outcomes. In 2016, for instance, two infants born by way of water delivery contracted Legionnaires’ disease, a life-threatening bacterial infection. Whereas each of these infants survived, one toddler in 2014 was additionally identified with Legionnaires’ after a water delivery and died. And in 2017, a baby in Canada died of an an infection with a herpes virus after a water delivery.

Ashton Gelzinis, a doula with Birth Naturally Brevard in Indian Harbour Seashore, FL, delivered each of her youngsters in water at house.

“It doesn’t essentially take all the things away, but it surely simply turns the dial down on the depth of labor,” she says. Gelzinis says she has not had points with infections in her time working as a doula, although she notes the significance of constructing positive the delivery workforce is certified and may act shortly in emergencies. Midwives and their assistants needs to be skilled in neonatal resuscitation and carry medicines to cease bleeding, as an illustration.

Consuming the Placenta

Pachtman says consuming the placenta after giving delivery is among the many extra well-liked practices that individuals ask her about. Most dry out the placenta, grind it right into a powder, and put it into tablets — a course of referred to as encapsulation.

Individuals who have completed this report having extra power, much less concern about their milk provide, and therapeutic slightly quicker.

“However once more, identical to water delivery, there’s not a complete lot of analysis and proof to help [these reports]” says Gelzinis, who consumed her placenta after giving delivery and affords encapsulation for her purchasers.

“I haven’t had anyone have damaging outcomes with taking the placenta,” she says.

Nonetheless, the tales about this apply don’t imply there’s scientific proof that consuming the placenta is useful.

“We’ve no method to say there’s any type of profit,” Cahill says.

“It’s all anecdotal … and whereas I respect these tales, I additionally inform my sufferers there’s a danger your placenta has a virus,” like hepatitis, HIV, Zika, or COVID, Pachtman says.

The placenta acts as a filter and gathers poisonous substances for 9 months, so there could also be a danger of an infection in the event you eat it, Pachtman explains. One report from Oregon in June 2017 discovered {that a} new child developed group B strep linked to the placenta capsules the kid’s mom had consumed after giving delivery.

Making Choices

For pregnant individuals and their companions with questions on various birthing practices, Pachtman and Cahill advocate talking with their obstetrician about what they’re studying, listening to, and pondering.

“We wish to respect sufferers’ autonomy, however after all wish to preserve pregnant individuals and unborn infants secure,” Cahill says.

Gelzinis recommends that each one soon-to-be dad and mom take a childbirth training class to be taught their choices moderately than taking place web “rabbit holes” to choose.

“I’m regularly shocked by the quantity of people that ask for medical recommendation from random individuals on the web. If you wish to make the most effective choice for you and your loved ones, discover a health care provider or a delivery supplier who you belief. And if you’d like extra info they usually don’t have it, ask them to look it up” and assist put the brand new info in context, Pachtman says. “Get the knowledge from individuals who have learn and studied and have discovered about this for a lot of, a few years.”

WebMD Well being Information


Sarah Pachtman, MD, maternal-fetal medication specialist, Northwell Well being, New York Metropolis.

Alison Cahill, MD, maternal-fetal medication specialist, Ladies’s Well being Institute, UT Well being Austin.

Ashton Gelzinis, doula, Beginning Naturally Brevard, Indian Harbour Seashore, FL.

CDC: “Notes from the Area: Late-Onset Toddler Group B Streptococcus An infection Related to Maternal Consumption of Capsules Containing Dehydrated Placenta — Oregon, 2016.”

American Faculty of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Committee Opinion: Immersion in Water Throughout Labor and Supply.”


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