Over the years, there have been many changes and advances in the process of childbirth. With doctors and midwives coming up with newer and safer techniques of delivery, there seems to be an overload of birthing methods available these days. One such birthing process is known as lotus birth. This way of delivery is also known as umbilical non-severance, or the practice of leaving the newborn attached to the placenta till the time the umbilical cord dries up naturally and disconnects from the belly button on its own. Lotus birth is known to be a more unique form of birthing and this trend has been catching on in recent times. There are both pros and cons associated with this birthing method. Today we make an effort to understand lotus birth and help you decide whether or not this birthing method is right for you.
What is Lotus Birth?
Also referred to as umbilical non-severance in medical circles, lotus birth has been growing in popularity in recent years. Lotus birth is the practice of not cutting the umbilical cord, which is attached to the placenta, till the time it dries off naturally and falls off on its own. This happens within a week or ten days of birth. There is no research to show exactly how long it takes for the cord to dry up and fall off on its own.
This birthing method is opposite to the more conventional practice of clamping the umbilical cord to cut off the blood circulation within a couple of minutes after birth. After some time, the cord is cut off to separate the placenta and the baby.
Many believe that the practice of lotus birth is a traditional way of birthing and was popular in the older days. There is historical evidence that suggests lotus births were popular in South Africa, Bali, and certain European nations as well. However, while lotus birth became popular during the 1970s, it was generally only observed in chimpanzees.
Through the umbilical cord, the baby still remains attached to the mother. The cord is then carried around in a special pouch or a bowl for the next couple of days until it decomposes and can be disposed of.
People are getting attracted to the practice of lotus birth because there is a lack of intervention that is believed to be beneficial for the baby. Advocates of the process believe that the baby does not suffer through the trauma of getting separated from the mother. While there is a lack of research on lotus birth and the risks and benefits associated with lotus birth, most of the information is gathered anecdotally.
The name lotus birth is derived from the lotus flower. Important to many Eastern cultures, the lotus flower has always been considered as a symbol for detachment, rebirth, and unity.
Benefits of Lotus Birth
Here are some of the benefits of having a lotus birth:
Many mothers feel that their babies get better acquainted to the world during the lotus birth method. They believe that when this happens, the babies feel a lot calmer since there is still an attachment remaining to the womb even after birth.
- Babies receive approximately 80-100 mL of extra blood that gets transferred from the placenta to the baby since the umbilical cord has not been cut. This is believed to help in the development of the child’s brains. The transfer of blood happens easily because, after birth, the placenta comes at the same level as the baby.
- The belly button of the baby is kept neat and clean since the cord falls off naturally. In conventional practice, the cutting of the umbilical cord increases the risk of infection as it leaves a minor wound behind.
- There is also an increase in the hemoglobin levels in the baby due to the extra blood that gets transferred from the placenta during lotus birth.
- This process increases the time of rest, allowing new parents to bond better and adjust to their baby.
- The manner in which the baby stays connected to the mother even after birth increases the bonding process.
- It gives more time to mothers for resting and recovering from the birthing process.
- The risk of infection in babies decreases as they are less likely to be ‘passed around’ since they are still connected to the mother.
- It has been observed that lotus babies are more peaceful and calmer as compared to babies who have their umbilical cords cut shortly after birth.
However, one must note that there is no scientific evidence or research that supports these claims, particularly about the increase in blood and nourishment transferred from the placenta to the baby. After all, the placenta, which receives blood supply directly from the mother, also gets birthed and is no longer considered to be living.
Thereby, it is quite unlikely that keeping the placenta and the baby connected will continue to have any benefits.
A lotus birth may also be necessary if there is an emergency birth situation and the mother and/or baby are awaiting medical treatment. In an emergency situation, without the presence of medical assistance, it is safer to keep the placenta attached to the baby after birth to lower the risk of complications, till the time proper medical assistance becomes available.
Risks Associated with Lotus Birth
Keep in mind that there has been almost no research done on lotus births that would shed light on potential risks associated with this method of birth. However, it is believed that there are lesser complications with lotus birth. Some doctors, though, believe that keeping the umbilical cord attached to the baby after birth increases the risk of bacterial infection significantly. There is also a possibility of having the infection spread to the child since the dead tissue remains attached to the child for so many days. Their immune system is not developed as of yet and the baby is considered to be in a highly delicate state after birth.
Many mothers rub essential oils or salt onto the placenta to keep it healthy and fresh for as long as possible. However, doctors are of the opinion that doing this cancels out the benefits of this birthing process in its entirety. Again, there is really no information available on how exactly the placenta should be treated after birth. Keep in mind that an infected placenta will also infect the baby. The placenta is actually highly prone to infection as it contains blood. After delivery, with no circulation left in the placenta, it essentially just becomes dead tissue.
Another risk that doctors warn of is that cord avulsion. This is a condition where the umbilical cord gets accidentally ripped away from the baby’s body.
A study posted in the Pediatrics and Neonatology Journal in June 2017, looked at the link between lotus birth and hepatitis. However, while the condition is suspected by many doctors, more research is still needed to conclusively prove any link between the two.
There is also a level of inconvenience attached to having a lotus birth. You would not be able to go anywhere and have to think twice before doing anything since the infant and the placenta is still attached through the umbilical cord. Traveling anywhere in this condition will also substantially increase the risk of infection for the infant.
Furthermore, if you are planning to encapsulate or consume the placenta, then a lotus birth would not be the right birthing method for you.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Deciding on a Lotus Birth
Having a lotus birth will leave your baby and placenta attached through the umbilical cord. Due to this, your newborn care routine, as well as your postpartum experience, will vary from that of a conventional birth process. This is why there are certain considerations you must keep in mind before you decide on having a lotus birth. These include:
- The placenta is birthed after the baby – it can take anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes to even half an hour.
- You will still be able to hold your newborn after they are born.
- You will need to arrange for a sterile place, such as a pouch, to place the placenta into. Also, bear in mind that you will need to carry the placenta around.
- You will be able to carry your baby home in a car seat, even though the placenta is still attached.
- The cord will fall off on its own from the baby’s belly button.
- The placenta will also dry up slowly and decay/
- As the blood inside the placenta starts stagnating, it will probably start smelling.
- Some mothers have said that rubbing salt, essential oils, and herbs on the placenta stop the smell and keep the placenta healthy.
Bear in mind that even though the placenta is attached to your baby, this does not mean you don’t have to feed the baby. This is because the placenta is no longer getting its nutrients from the mother, and thus, it would not be able to supply any nutrients to the baby. You will still need to feed your baby every two to three hours.
You will need to ensure that your baby’s clothes have an opening in the front or middle. Zipper clothes may prove to be an inconvenience, so opt for buying clothes that have snap closures.
There is no data available on whether you should bathe your baby after having a lotus birth. While it is important to keep a baby clean, nobody knows how safe it gives a full bath to the baby while the placenta and umbilical cord are still attached. You should consider giving sponge baths instead, at least until the placenta detaches.
Steps to Take While Choosing A Lotus Birth
If you want to choose a lotus birth, then you need to discuss all the details related to the birthing process beforehand with your doctor or midwife. You must ask about interventions, pain relief, and all the standard practices followed by the doctors and nursing staff during a lotus birth.
It is important to know that the majority of doctors and hospitals do not perform a lotus birth delivery. In fact, you will find that most medical organizations do not even address the practice of lotus birth on their websites and their doctors straightaway refuse this birthing method. This is primarily due to the lack of research on this type of birthing method. Lotus births are extremely rare and not many understand the exact process associated with lotus birth.
For example, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the United Kingdom actually advise against having a lotus birth. Similarly the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Pregnancy Association, both do not even provide any statement on lotus birth. If you want to undergo a lotus birth, then you will have to do so with a midwife and have a home birth. Always make sure to choose a midwife who has previous experience in lotus birth. Choosing a doctor or midwife who is not familiar with the practice, increases the risk for both the mother and the baby.
If you do find a healthcare provider who will be comfortable performing a lotus birth then you must ask certain questions to check whether they have the required experience with this birthing practice. Other questions you should ask your healthcare provider include:
- What are all the risks and complications associated with having a lotus birth?
- How do I increase the safety associated with lotus birth?
- How will I dress my baby and carry him/her around while the umbilical cord and placenta are still attached?
- How will I treat or clean the placenta while it is still attached to the cord?
- How many times has the doctor/midwife helped deliver a baby through lotus birth?
- What should I do if I see signs of infection?
- What are the signs of complications?
The practice of lotus birth involves keeping the umbilical cord and the placenta attached the baby after birth. This practice lets the placenta and cord stay attached to the baby and allows them to dry off on their own and fall off naturally. Many people believe that a lotus birth is a more gentle ritual than conventional birthing, in which the umbilical cord is cut off immediately after the baby is born. However, before you consider opting for a lotus birth, keep in mind that very little to no research is available that prove any of the benefits of lotus birth. A lotus birth also significantly increases the risk of infection and injury to the infant.
Before you decide on a lotus birth, make sure you ask your midwife or doctor about their advice and about how much experience they had had in the past with this method of birthing. If you do decide to go ahead with a lotus birth, then you must only work with a healthcare practitioner who has significant experience with this way of birthing.
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Tricarico, A., Bianco, V., Di Biase, A.R., Iughetti, L., Ferrari, F. and Berardi, A., 2017. Lotus birth associated with idiopathic neonatal hepatitis. Pediatrics & Neonatology, 58(3), pp.281-282.