Though you may associate it more with the parking lot of a Widespread Panic concert than with the miracle of life, an increasing number of American women are now choosing laughing gas as their painkiller while giving birth in place of more popular pain killing treatments like epidurals or narcotics. Though long popular as a pain-reliever for birthing moms in Europe and Canada (and New Zealand, where nitrous is used in 70 period of births), nitrous has been off the American birthing scene since the 1930s, when the epidural rose to prominence. Like a lot of recent birthing trends, nitrous seems a little far-out at first — will babies born to nitrous-huffing mothers come out wearing a woven poncho covered in yerba matte stains and clutching a Dark Star Orchestra bootleg? — but when you dig a little, it's also understandable.
The recent rise in American home births — a figure that has grown by 59 percent since 2004, to 35,000 annually, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has made mothers and families around the country feel a little freer when it comes to expressing themselves, their needs, and their values when they give birth.
So let's all let our placentas fall to floor and explore the wackier side of recent birth trends, shall we?
If you were able to make it through 2013 without hearing about "lotus birth," a process that requires the umbilical cord to fall of naturally rather than being cut — sometimes leaving mother and baby connected by placenta for up to 10 days — well, then, congrats to you for having better things to do than hang out reading Internet think pieces all day.
But the controversial post-birth practice gained media notoriety two years ago after writer Adele Allen wrote a detailed account of her own lotus birth experience, which introduced the rest of the Internet to a phenomenon already familiar to the alternative birthing crowd. There are serious questions about its health risks (many doctors feel that lotus birth is dangerous, because of the risk of an infection in the placenta spreading to the baby) and no clear figures about how many women actually embrace the practice, but if you do choose to go through with it, damn, there are a lot of bags you can use to schlep your placenta around for sale on Etsy.
If you've always wanted to be more like Jessica Alba, but know that your chances of being cast in a Honey reboot are minimal, you can always try a "veiled birth" — a medical phenomenon where baby is delivered while still sealed inside its amniotic sac, which Alba experienced when she delivered her second child.
Typically, when a woman gives birth, the amniotic sac bursts — this is what happens when someone says that their "water broke." But on rare occasions, a baby can be delivered while still in its unbroken sac, which will then be punctured by the delivering doctor in a procedure called an "amniotomy." Though it is not quite common enough to be called a trend — fewer than 1 in 80,000 babies are born still in their sac — a 2010 study found that intentionally leaving extremely premature babies in their amniotic sacs during C-section deliveries could offer them many health benefits (as well as giving them this kind of cool picture of their own birth to flash around for the rest of their life).
Giving Birth in the Wild
Lifetime is premiering a new reality show in March called Born in the Wild, which chronicles — you guessed it — women who have decided to give birth in nature, without doctors or other medical support. But the show itself was inspired by an ultra-popular viral video which depicted a woman giving birth outdoors, in a rain forest, without medical intervention, and by the rising popularity of couples choosing medically unassisted home births (like Audrey and Peter Bird, an Alaskan couple featured on the show).
Though it is not quite yet a full-on trend, doctors are worried that it will become one (one that carries serious medical risks for the mother should anything go wrong during labor). Will 2016 be the year all your trips to Mommy & Me yoga are ruined by women smugly telling you about how they gave birth in a clear mountain stream outside of Provo? Only time will tell, friend. Only time will tell.
New mothers have been eating their placenta for hundreds of years — the practice has long been a staple of traditional Chinese medicine — but modern life comes with a lot of options, and that includes options for how you can consume this organ, which feeds and provides oxygen to the baby while it is in utero.
You can have a placenta smoothie, cook placenta lasagna, or you can outsource the whole thing to a specialist, who will dry the placenta, grind it down, and return it to you in pill form. Some high-profile moms like January Jones have touted placenta pills as healthful, and many placenta pill advocates believe that the pills help moms recover from birth faster.
Most doctors don't caution mothers away from the pills, although there have been no scientific studies backing up the idea that placenta pills will help you bounce back, and some moms have apparently had bad placenta pill trips, filled with anxiety, mood swings, and other symptoms that basically sound like the episode of Saved By the Bell where Jessie got hooked on caffeine. So, buyer/birther beware.
Placenta Teddy Bears
But maybe keeping all the placenta for yourself sounds too selfish. You've gotta share that stuff with the world! If so, you've got a lot of options — placenta jewelry, placenta prints, and of course, placenta teddy bears. British designer Alex Green began creating the toys from dried and softened placentas in 2009, sewing them up with thread into leathery-looking playthings. The designer even offered a DIY kit at one point, for moms who feel up to tanning and crafting with their own womb-meat (hey, we all need hobbies, and not everyone can get into Minecraft).
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