What is a lotus birth?
One of the most common sights after delivering a baby in a regular hospital is a doctor severing the umbilical cord. This way, the placenta is detached from the baby's body and the remaining part of the umbilical cord gets tied into a knot. This knot will dry out and fall off very soon after the birth, but it requires daily cleaning in order to prevent infections.
Lotus birth is a concept that changes the course of the typical postpartum umbilical cord treatment.
The lotus birth is an alternative to regular labor during which the placenta and the umbilical cord are left alongside the baby after the birth. Instead of severing the umbilical cord, the midwife (most often after a homebirth) will leave the baby along with its umbilical cord and placenta.
Although lotus birth lacks evidence-based info to support alleged benefits for the baby, it is rooted in ancient medicinal practices of Asian and African civilization. Traces of lotus birth have been found in the historical record of these societies.
In the era before the reliable maternity care that exists today, people sometimes left the placenta along with the baby to prevent infections from having an open wound. As one can imagine, the people of ancient societies couldn't provide sterile surroundings for a newborn, nor vaccination to protect him from the disease. In some cases, they'd choose to leave the umbilical cord non-severed so that the baby wouldn't have an open wound on his body.
As the medicine progressed, this practice was abandoned.
Are there medical benefits of lotus births?
The majority of claims of lotus birth benefits relate to the metaphysical concept of preserving the wholesomeness of the baby at birth. However, it is better to stick with evidence based medicine (EBM). Here are a couple of other alleged lotus birth benefits:
Helps baby to adapt to the world outside of the womb
It is believed that the benefits of lotus birth are also psychological. As the baby comes into the world, it experiences what many psychologists claim to be a trauma. It leaves a completely safe, balanced environment in which her needs are always met, to come into the world that shocks with light and noises, and where the baby experiences the pain and sensation of hunger for the first time. Lotus birth is said to ease the transition for the baby, as it remains attached to its umbilical cord, with which he spent months touching and playing.
Other alleged benefits include better blood circulation for the baby as it receives the remaining of the blood from the umbilical cord. There are also benefits from absorbing the stem cells that are found inside the cord.
Here are some other lotus birth pros and cons.
No need for cleaning and maintenance of the belly button.
- Reduction of psychological shock to the baby.
- Absorption of extra blood into the newborn’s body.
- Low mobility for the mother and the baby.
- Increased risks from infection.
- Daily placenta cleaning and maintenance.
Risks associated with a lotus birth
The lotus birth is associated with many health risks:
Primarily, it is a risk from an infection that concerns doctors in regular hospitals, who are strongly discouraging women from this practice. As the umbilical cord and the placenta essentially become dead tissue after childbirth, they begin to rot within minutes after labor. Having a decaying organ attached to a newborn is a risk that, according to doctors, exceeds potential benefits.
Injury to the navel is another potential risk from lotus birth. While the baby is attached to the placenta, he needs to be treated extremely tenderly. Mothers are instructed to pick up and move around the baby only when necessary so that the umbilical cord doesn't tear up.
The lotus birth carries the risk from infection for the baby, in which sepsis is a constant threat. If not closely monitored, a baby with an unsevered umbilical cord can become septic very easily. Sepsis is otherwise one of the major health risks for the newborns, as an infection can overtake the newborn's defenseless body within hours.
When will the umbilical cord fall off if given a chance?
In most cases, the umbilical cord falls off within 3-10 days. During this time, both mother and the baby must lay still for the majority of the day. The umbilical cord is either wrapped up into an absorbent fabric, placed into a pot or bowl, or covered with sea salt and herbs. Treating the placenta with sea salt and herbs helps it dry faster, hence reducing the risk from infection. An absorbent, such as gaze or a towel, is necessary to drain extra blood.
How to take care of placenta?
With lotus birth, the placenta care is extremely important to reduce the risk from infections. Here's what you need to do to care for the placenta after lotus birth:
- Rinse it with water and wrap it into a clean, absorbent fabric.
- Wash it daily with fresh water to remove bacteria.
- Keep it wrapped up and store it into a bowl or a pot.
- Cover it in sea salt and herbs to cover the smell and speed up the drying process.
While attached to the umbilical cord, the baby needs loose, revealing clothing that prevents squeezing and tugging of the umbilical cord. Caution is advised when nursing and carrying the baby. In most cases, the so-called 'lotus babies' and their mothers are practically confined to the bed, as the tender umbilical cord and the placenta require space and reduce mobility. However, this doesn't last for long. Placenta and the umbilical cord naturally detach within ten days, which is the time during which the mother should lie and rest for the most part.
Out of all alleged benefits of the lotus birth, two seem to have the strongest impact on the parents who consider the option.
First, the baby's an easier adaptation to the life outside the womb. Many experts on the topic advocate that the baby feels calmer when it's still attached to the organ that took care of her needs since the conception.
Second is the healing process for the mother. As lotus birth reduces mobility for the mother, it promotes slow and patient postpartum healing. Many women feel an urge to be active after giving birth, which doesn't go hand in hand with the postpartum healing. For a mother to recover properly after giving birth, rest is vital.
Although there are substantial claims of health benefits of the lotus birth for the baby, there's no record of actual benefits obtained through science research. Delayed severance, on the other hand, had been confirmed to be beneficial for the baby's health. With this practice, the umbilical cord is left attached for an hour after giving birth. This process is perhaps a good alternative to lotus, as it's risk-free and done in a safe, hospital environment.
Most mothers who choose lotus birth do so for religious or spiritual reasons. Lotus birth is believed to preserve the wholesomeness of the baby as being. Severing the umbilical cord is, in many cultures, believed to be a very aggressive act that disrupts the energy flow inside the baby's body. If the placenta is left with the baby, it will detach naturally and give the baby more time to adapt to this world.
Still, there's very little scientific evidence to support these claims.