Have you ever come across the phrase ‘lotus birth’?
It’s a new birth trend that has happened to take the internet and everybody’s Pinterest by storm but, other than sounding like a bizarre spa treatment, what exactly is it?
Mothers who opt to undertake a lotus birth basically refuse to cut their newborn’s umbilical cord. They also decline the immediate removal of the placenta post the birth of their baby. Instead, following an ideal lotus birth, the mother waits for the placenta to spontaneously detach from her child when the baby’s umbilical cord happens to naturally disintegrate and fall off of his or her tummy.
Now though some mommies are waxing lyrical of why lotus births are the way to go as they simultaneously post fascinating pictures of their newborns with intact umbilical cords upon Instagram, the medical community however, has something very different to say.
If a mother has opted for a lotus birth, she will typically be seen hauling around her baby’s yet attached placenta everywhere with the child, going so far as enclosing it in her child’s swaddle. In order to accelerate the process of drying up the placenta, many mommies choose to consistently sprinkle salt through the course of the day. They also utilize essential oils in an endeavor to mask the foul smell of the decomposing placenta. Other mothers will choose to simply lay the placenta in a water basin. Advocates of the lotus birth cite emotional and physical benefits as the motivation to keep the placenta still attached to their newborn. However, the safety of this practice has been widely questioned.
In 2008 The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) officially advised against any practice of allowing babies to remain attached to their placentas post birth . This statement was issued around the same time when doctors and midwives had begun to see a notable rise in new parents asking them to lay off from cutting their baby’s cord.
Back then medical professionals wouldn’t push too hard for they’d respect a mother’s right to take the final call regarding her body. They’d simply warn them of the risk of infection that their child would be exposed to and let the parents ultimately decide.
Doctors from the RCOG time and time again remind, “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.”
In 2012 an ob-gyn and popular blogger Dr. Amy Tuteur from Skeptical OB, published her own scathing verdict regarding lotus births online. She referred to the “non-severance” births as “a bizarre practice with no medical benefit and considerable risk, particularly the risk of massive infection.”
However, not everyone in the medical community is doom and gloom when it comes to this unusual form of birth. An Australian MD, Dr. Sarah Buckley is a popular advocate of lotus births. Author of ‘Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices,’ she has chronicled her own personal lotus birth experiences where her children’s cords happened to fall off anytime between 3-6 days post birth. She’s a happy mother of four.
Dr. Buckley refers to lotus births as “a beautiful and logical extension of natural childbirth [that] invites us to reclaim the so-called third stage of birth, and to honor the placenta, our baby’s first source of nourishment.”
However, most doctors still refuse to conduct a lotus birth as there is yet to be any study exhibiting any medical benefit. According to Dr. Robert Atlas from Baltimore’s Mercury Medical Center, “The function of the placenta is essentially over the minute the placenta detaches and stops pulsating and sending blood over to the newborn. There is no medical benefit to the mother or the newborn to continue to allow the umbilical cord to be attached to the placenta.”
Atlas proceeds to elaborate, “I can use the example of animals. When the animal delivers in the wild, they do not leave the placenta attached to the calf (or whatever the animal is called); the mother actually eats the placenta to get rid of the blood and remnants of birth to try and decrease the smell that may attract predators.”
Well, if that image wasn’t enough to put you off lotus births forever, Atlas has these final parting gems to offer, “I don’t think there is any increased risk of infection, but dying tissue smells horribly.” Yikes.