A recent trend in C-section births, in which mothers lift their own babies out of the womb, has been amplified by social media. The practice, dubbed maternal-assisted caesarean (MAC), has been offered by obstetricians who claim they want to help women feel more empowered during their C-sections.

But questions remain around whether this type of procedure is safe, and multiple medical experts have cautioned against it.

In a recent Instagram post, a birth and postpartum doula named Vanessa Salerno showed a video in which a mother pulls her baby out of the womb in the midst of a C-section.

“Bringing life into the world via caesarean section is every bit as awesome as giving birth any other way,” Salerno wrote. “Who says it can’t be empowering? #Birthisbirth and let no one tell you any different!”

Few hospitals and healthcare organizations have weighed on the safety of MACs. But some birthing organizations, including the Empowered Motherhood Program, have written blog posts espousing the procedure. MAC advocates claim that traditional C-sections prevent immediate mother-to-infant bonding.

Other obstetricians and some health systems have opposed the procedure. In an August 2021 memo, the WA Country Health Service (WACHS), Western Australia’s public health system, noted it had been seeing an increase in requests for MACs and stated that it does not support the procedure.

In the memo, WACHS noted that there simply isn’t enough scientific evidence attesting to its safety.

“While evidence does not appear to suggest that maternal assisted caesarean sections increase the rate of infection or bleeding, these studies are small, retrospective and have only been carried out in larger hospitals, which perform the procedure more often and have greater resources,” the memo noted.

Instead, the WACHS recommends a “modified” C-section that can avoid potential risks while still allowing the mother to bond with the child.

Despite their online popularity, MACs remain relatively uncommon. But that hasn’t stopped advocates and mothers posting their own stories on TikTok, under the hashtags #DoulasOfTikTok and #BirthWorkers.

MACs are far from the only potentially risky birth trend to surface on social media. Recently, mothers have been posting footage of “free births” on TikTok, including clips of deliveries at home in bathtubs, living rooms or bedrooms without medical assistance.