The XX Factor

XoJane Should Never Have Published This Mother’s Dangerous Views

Newborn baby with umbilical cord detached from the placenta.

Photo by Paul Hakimata Photography/Shutterstock

Late last week, xoJane published a piece called “I Did Not Cut My Baby’s Umbilical Cord for Six Days So We Could Have a Natural ‘Lotus Birth’ Just Like Chimpanzees.” The title speaks for itself: The author, a British woman named Adele Allen, had an unassisted home birth (no doula, midwife, or other medical professional present), after which she left her placenta attached to her son until he was six days old. That’s when he gripped the umbilical cord and detached it himself. Allen claims that:

The physical benefits of not cutting the cord include optimum immune protection and reduced risk of infection as no open wound is created. Other benefits are, in my opinion, of a more spiritual nature. I believe that to truly understand how nature intended women to give birth we must look to the wild animals who are untouched by man.

Jezebel’s Tracy Moore, commenting on Allen’s article, says that her “lotus birth” practice sounds “bizarre,” but “it’s this lady’s ‘feels right.’ As a citizen of choices, I gotta give it to her, hook, line and placenta.”

No, you don’t “gotta give it to her.” This is not a drummed-up mommy wars battle, like breast vs. bottle—whether you breast- or bottle-feed, your kid will be fed and won’t die. This isn’t even eating your placenta, which is gross but not harmful (and which xoJane also published a piece about last week). A negative reaction to Allen’s “choice” is not about general negativity toward “natural stuff,” as Moore also argues. Having a home birth with no one present is a highly dangerous risk. What’s more, though there is some evidence that there are benefits to waiting a few extra minutes before cutting an umbilical cord, there is no evidence that a so-called “lotus birth” is beneficial to babies.

In fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has weighed in (this “trend” seems to be more prevalent in the U.K., though it’s very, very rare), and its spokesman says:

If left for a period of time after the birth, there is a risk of infection in the placenta which can consequently spread to the baby. The placenta is particularly prone to infection as it contains blood. Within a short time after birth, once the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating, the placenta has no circulation and is essentially dead tissue.

Furthermore, Allen has written on her personal blog about how she isn’t vaccinating her child. She repeats dangerous misinformation about the relationship between autism and vaccines that has been repeatedly discredited. Her views are straight up anti-science and incorrect, and it’s jaw-droppingly irresponsible of xoJane to give this woman a larger audience. (When this post was published, her story has more than 2,000 comments.) One of the site’s editors jumped into the fray in the comment section, where Allen was getting a lot of criticism, and said “anyone who reads information on the Internet and then acts on it without further research or consulting their own doctor is responsible for the consequences, IMO.”

That may be true, but it takes the onus off of xoJane for giving this woman a platform. The editor seems to be saying: Hey, we know this is loony tunes, but we’re publishing it anyway for the clicks.

XoJane is not the only publication legitimizing patently false arguments these days. On Monday the Wall Street Journal published Three’s Company actress Suzanne Somers talking about the Affordable Care Act. Somers is someone who spreads dangerous misinformation about cancer through her myriad books and public appearances. It’s no wonder the paper had to print this whopper of a correction today. And we all know how ABC has done the unforgiveable in giving anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy a spot on The View.  Mainstream media, I am begging you: Please, please stop handing your space over to these people. Giving them a bigger platform is unconscionable.