Lotus birth, also known as umbilical cord non-severance, is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord and the placentaiXA temporary organ that provides the child with oxygen and nutrients with the baby after childbirth until it detaches naturally (1). It can take several days or even a week or more for the placenta and cord to separate (2). The practice of lotus birth has supporters and critics, with some arguing that it has health benefits for the mother and the baby, while others say it poses significant risks. Scroll through to understand the risks and benefits of lotus birth and explore the evidence behind this uncommon practice.
Is Lotus Birth Safe?
The uncommon practice of lotus birth is not well understood due to insufficient research. As the placenta becomes non-viable after childbirth, there may be a risk of infection, which may also spread to the baby. Due to a lack of medical evidence, the safety of this procedure is not established (1).
How Did Lotus Birth Practice Start?
The practice of lotus birth was initiated by a woman named Clair Lotus Day in 1974. She observed how a chimpanzee retained her baby’s placenta until it dried up and detached naturally. After that, she adopted this method in humans, presuming it could improve bonding and attachment post-birth (3).
How Does The Lotus Birth Method Work?
Lotus birth is carried out in the following manner (4):
- The baby is placed on the mother’s chest, and the placenta is allowed to deliver naturally without using oxytocic medicinesiXMedications that stimulate uterine activity and induce labor .
- The umbilical cord is not clamped, so the veins naturally constrict, stopping blood circulation in the placenta within five minutes.
- The placenta is then washed, salted, and covered in absorbent material. Finally, a mixture of herbs is used to dry the placenta and to prevent foul odor and infection.
- The placenta is kept in an airy bag until the umbilical cord separates from the baby.
Why Do Some Parents Opt For Lotus Birth?
Mothers may opt for a lotus birth approach because of their spiritual beliefs. They view the placenta and the umbilical cord as parts of the baby, not medical waste. Therefore, they believe the baby should have the control of letting go of them when they are ready (5).
What Is The Difference Between Lotus Birth And Delayed Cord Clamping?
Delayed cord clamping (DCC) is where the umbilical cord is left attached to the baby for 30 to 60 seconds after birth (6). In lotus birth, the cord is left uncut until it falls off naturally, which may take about three to ten days (2).
DCC is recognized as a beneficial technique for newborns due to the following reasons (6):
- Aids in the blood transfer from the placenta to the baby, thereby improving iron levels and preventing iron deficiency in the first year of the baby’s life.
- Assists immunoglobuliniXProtective proteins produced by the body’s immune system and stem-cell transfer, which is helpful for organ and tissue repair.
- Minimizes the risk of necrotizing enterocolitisiXAn inflammatory condition leading to the death of intestines and intraventricular hemorrhageiXBleeding in the fluid-filled areas of the brain .
On the other hand, lotus birth lacks enough research on its health benefits and safety (1). It may thus not be as widely accepted as DCC.
What Are The Benefits Of Lotus Birth?
Although the lotus birth benefits may not be scientifically proven, the perceived benefits, according to a study, include (4):
- Newborns appear calmer and peaceful after lotus birth.
- The mothers and the babies can have a better breastfeeding experience.
- Keeping the placenta attached could help in better mother-child bonding.
- May help prevent anemia in newborns.
What Are The Risks Of Lotus Birth?
The risks of lotus birth outweigh its benefits; therefore, not many doctors recommend it. According to limited studies, the risks involved in a lotus birth include the following:
- Omphalitis, an infection of the umbilical cord and the surrounding tissues in the newborn (1).
- Hepatitis, an increase in the levels of aspartateiXAn amino acid synthesized by mammals and alanine aminotransferaseiXAn enzyme found in the liver and the kidney , leading to persistent jaundice in the infant (7).
How To Care For The Placenta After A Lotus Birth?
You may follow these tips and safety measures to care for the placenta after a lotus birth (8).
- Keep the placenta close to the baby’s body to prevent accidental pulling.
- Treat the placenta and the umbilical cord with salt, herbs, and essential oils to help prevent infection and foul odor. Then, store it in a placenta bag (4).
- Choose loose and front-open clothes for the baby.
- Be careful while lifting, feeding, and cuddling with your baby.
When To Seek Medical Attention?
Following are the signs of concern to seek immediate medical attention (8):
- Swelling and redness in and around the umbilical cord
- A feeling of warmth in the cord and the surrounding area
- Baby developing fever with a body temperature of 100oF or above
- Baby does not feed properly, with less than six to eight feedings on the first two days and less than eight to 12 on the second and third days
- Baby sleeping more than usual
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I have a lotus birth with a c-section?
The possibility of a lotus birth may decrease with a c-section (9). But in some cases, the doctor may be able to maintain an intact placenta even after a cesarean (5). Discuss your preferences before your delivery; and know that in case of a cesarean section, umbilical cord clamping may be at the doctor’s discretion based on your overall health.
2. Can I have a lotus birth at the hospital?
Yes. Although initially, lotus births were performed at home births, they are now also done at hospitals (4).
Although lotus birth is believed to support the spiritual connection and benefit the emotional bonding between a mother and the child, it also holds some risks. The potential for infection and the lack of scientific evidence to support its benefits should not be forgotten. Due to a lack of enough research, it is essential for expectant parents to thoroughly understand the concept and consider the risks and benefits of lotus birth after consulting with their OB/GYN to make a safe and informed decision.
Infographic: Taking care of your placenta after a lotus birth
While lotus birth may not be a common practice, it is considered a sacred and spiritual tradition in some cultures. So if you have opted for this method, it is essential to properly care for the placenta to ensure the newborn’s safety and health. This infographic will guide you with tips and measures to keep your baby safe.
- Lotus birth is keeping the placenta and umbilical cord attached to the baby until it falls off naturally.
- This helps strengthen the mother-child bond and make the baby more peaceful, but the claims lack evidence.
- Lotus birth may increase the risk of infections such as omphalitis and hepatitis in the baby.
- It is essential to watch the baby’s behavior and health following a lotus birth and seek timely medical attention.
- Lydia Lanniet al.; (2021); Cutting Ties With an Old Friend: Omphalitis and Bacteremia With Umbilical Cord Nonseverance.
- 7 Alternative Birth Practices & What You Should Know About Them.
- Laura A.Zinsser; (2018); Lotus birth a holistic approach on physiological cord clamping.
- Ilknur M Gönenç et al.; (2019); Qualitative Study on the Experience of Lotus Birth.
- Kimberly K. Monroe et al.; (2018); Lotus Birth: A Case Series Report on Umbilical Nonseverance.
- Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth.
- Antonella Tricaricoet al.; (2017); Lotus Birth Associated With Idiopathic Neonatal Hepatitis.
- Lotus Birth/Umbilical NonSeverance: What to Expect.
- Lotus Birth Patient Information Brochure.