This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Lotus birth is an increasingly popular birthing practice gaining recognition and adherents due to its potential benefits, including avoiding medical interventions, easy management of the umbilical cord, and preserving the bond between mother and baby during birth.
However, it’s important to understand the risks associated with lotus birth before taking this route. In this article, we explore the benefits and risks of this unique birthing option, delving into topics such as the spiritual symbolism of a lotus birth, how long to keep the placenta attached, potential complications following a lotus birth, the ethical considerations present in this type of birthing choice, and more.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about lotus birth – the pros, cons, and other factors that you should consider for this potentially transformative birthing experience.
What is a Lotus Birth?
Lotus birth is a practice of leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the newborn until the cord falls off on its own.
This process typically takes 3 to 10 days (or longer).
Delayed Clamping vs. Lotus Birth: What’s the Difference?
Delayed umbilical cord clamping is an alternative to lotus birth, as it allows for the cord to remain attached for a few minutes after the baby’s arrival. This gives the baby a chance to receive the full benefits of the blood still in the cord.
In contrast to lotus birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and immediately cut (within 10 to 20 minutes typically- when the cord stops pulsating), so the baby is no longer connected to the placenta.
Due to the lack of medical research into lotus birth, little is known about potential risks or side effects. It is possible that leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the newborn could cause an infection or put the baby at risk of bleeding. Additionally, the practice of lotus birthing could potentially delay the formation of a baby’s belly button (but not usually).
History of Lotus Birth
Lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after childbirth so that the baby is left attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus. The placenta and umbilical cord are then kept intact and cared for until they naturally fall off.
The idea of lotus birth emerged in the 1970s in the U.S. and Australia and was named after Clair Lotus Day, who observed that chimpanzees did not separate the placenta from the newborn. Lotus birth is a process that has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, as it is rooted in ancient medicinal practices of Asian and African cultures.
The Rise of Lotus Birth in the Western World
Lotus birth is becoming increasingly popular in the West as parents choose to delay cord clamping and keep the umbilical cord and placenta attached to the baby after birth.
In theory, this allows the baby to receive extra red blood cells and other nutrients from the placenta while also creating an opportunity for bonding between the mother and the baby (by staying connected longer before the placenta is expelled during labor). Even though lotus birth is growing in popularity, many medical experts are skeptical of the practice and recommend early or delayed cord clamping (within the first hour of birth) over umbilical nonseverance.
What Does the Research Say?
Although lotus birth has been practiced for centuries, no quality research currently supports its alleged benefits for the baby. Some medical professionals worry that leaving the umbilical cord attached could increase the risk of infection. Due to the lack of quality research on lotus birth, many doctors and midwives may not be willing to perform the procedure. In fact, it has been observed that most women that have lotus births do so at home or an alternative birth center, not the hospital.
Despite the lack of evidence-based info to support its benefits, lotus birth is an option among some couples who prefer natural birth. While a lotus birth may not be the right choice for everyone, it offers an opportunity for parents to bond with their baby and create an intimate connection between the baby’s arrival and their belly button.
Delayed Cord Clamping vs. Lotus Births
Delayed cord clamping, or leaving the umbilical cord uncut for 1-3 minutes (or more) after the baby’s arrival, is a practice that has been used for centuries and is now supported by organizations such as the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Scientific evidence has demonstrated that delayed cord clamping has numerous advantages for the newborn, such as improved immune function and circulation, increased iron levels, and a reduced risk of anemia and bowel infections. It also provides a slightly increased risk of jaundice, but the benefits are thought to outweigh this risk.
Lotus births do not involve any type of clamping. Instead, the focus is on keeping the umbilical cord and placenta intact after birth. Thus, the theory is that many of the benefits of delayed cord clamping are maximized. Other benefits will be reviewed below.
Benefits of Lotus Birth
Like delayed cor clamping, lotus births are believed to improve immune function, increase iron, and reduce the risk of anemia and other common newborn ailments.
Lotus birthing also offers spiritual benefits, as it honors the birthing process and the special relationship between the baby and the umbilical cord/placenta. It could also provide a more intimate connection between mother and baby, as the placenta is left attached to the baby until the cord naturally detaches. Additionally, there is a potential for reduced risk of infection since the placenta is still attached, as opposed to a hospital birth where the cord is cut immediately.
Those who choose to have a lotus birth also support a more natural birthing process, as the umbilical cord and placenta are left intact. It may also be beneficial for preterm infants, as it allows for improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and intraventricular hemorrhage.
Related read: How to Write a Birth Plan
Risks of Lotus Birth
Lotus birth is a practice that has been gaining popularity in recent years, but it is important to understand its associated risks.
While the practice has many benefits, there are also a few risks that mothers should be aware of before deciding to go through with it. One of the most significant risks involves the umbilical cord and placenta, which remain attached to the baby until after delivery and can become colonized by bacteria and potentially become infected. In addition, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated in 2008 that there is a risk of infection in the placenta, which could spread to the baby due to lack of circulation.
Another potential risk of lotus birth is cord avulsion, which can happen if the umbilical cord is pulled or cut too hard or too soon. This can cause the baby to lose a lot of blood and may require medical attention. If an emergency situation arises and the cord needs to be cut, the risks associated with cutting the cord are hemorrhage and infection.
It is also important to note that lotus birthing can potentially risk a baby’s health. The umbilical cord and placenta are essentially dead tissue and can become infected, so it is important for mothers to take the necessary steps to protect their babies. This includes washing their hands and the umbilical cord area often, avoiding contact with the placenta, and keeping the umbilical cord and area clean.
If there are any signs of a possible infection near the umbilical cord area, such as a pus or fluid-filled lump, red, warm, or swollen skin, cloudy, foul-smelling discharge or blood, fever >100.4F, irritability, lethargy, trouble feeding or decreased activity, medical attention should be sought right away.
Finally, it is important for mothers to be aware of the risks associated with lotus birth and to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their baby. While lotus birth can provide many benefits, such as providing a more spiritual and connected experience for the mother and her baby, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits before making any decisions.
Clair Lotus Day, a birth and postnatal doula, recommends that lotus birthing should only be done in the home birth setting, under the care and guidance of a healthcare provider.
It is important for mothers to be aware of the risks associated with lotus birth and to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their baby.
Related read: The Best Birth Classes
How to Perform a Lotus Birth
As mentioned several times, lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached after birth until the cord falls off naturally. This practice is believed to comfort the baby and give them a gentle transition into the world.
First, find a trusted provider
Parents who choose to perform a lotus birth typically do so in a home birth setting with a midwife with experience in lotus birthing. It is important to discuss the practice with a healthcare provider and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the baby. The umbilical cord will not be clamped or severed from the placenta as it traditionally is in the third stage of labor.
Once the baby is born, the cord and placenta are usually wrapped in clean dressings and placed in a cotton bag that allows for airflow. The baby and the placenta are swaddled together, and the placenta is carried with the baby.
Be extra vigilant and watch for signs of infection
The practice of lotus birth is said to symbolize unity, attachedness, and rebirth. However, it is important to note that there are possible health risks associated with this practice. The placenta must be monitored closely and handled with care to prevent infection. The umbilical cord should not be removed before it is ready to fall off, as this could cause possible infection. If parents choose to perform a lotus birth, they must take the necessary precautions to ensure their baby’s safety.
It is also important to remember that lotus birth is an alternative birthing practice and is not recommended in a hospital setting. It is important to seek medical attention if there are any concerns or medical issues. It is also important to keep in mind that the practice of lotus birthing can be a long process, and the umbilical cord may take up to 10 days to naturally fall off. During this time, parents should be aware of signs of infection and seek necessary medical care.
It is important to discuss the practice with a healthcare provider and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the baby.
Care of the Placenta After a Lotus Birth
Caring for the placenta after a lotus birth is an important part of the process. The umbilical cord and placenta are left attached to the newborn until the cord naturally separates from the baby’s body. The placenta must be kept free from infection and odors during this time. It is important to note that the placenta is composed of dead tissue, so it is prone to infection.
The World Health Organization and the American College of Nurse-Midwives recommend that the umbilical cord be left intact for at least one hour after birth, and that umbilical cord clamping be delayed until the third stage of labor is complete. This allows for increased blood circulation from the placenta to the baby and supports the baby’s transition to life outside the womb. A lotus birth skips clamping altogether, requiring special placenta and umbilical cord care.
Once the placenta is out of the womb, the parents must take care to keep everything clean and free from infection. This can be done by washing the placenta with warm water and treating it with salt, herbs, or essential oils. These treatments will help the placenta dry out faster and mask the smell. If done correctly, the placenta will be kept safe until it naturally detaches from the baby.
Ultimately, finding a midwife specializing in natural birth who can help your support lotus birth safely is important.
Alternatives to Lotus Birth
When considering birthing practices, there are alternatives to lotus birth that may be more suitable for some people.
Delayed cord clamping is a birthing practice that involves waiting for a few minutes after the baby is born before cutting the umbilical cord. This allows the baby to receive additional blood from the placenta, which has potential benefits for the baby’s health. It can also be done in the event of an emergency birth, as it does not require any additional medical attention or equipment. This is the method most recommended today.
Physiological cord clamping is another birthing practice similar to delayed cord clamping, which involves clamping and cutting the umbilical cord based on the observation of signs and waiting for the cord to stop pulsing. This method has also been found to have some potential benefits for the baby’s health.
Early cord clamping involves cutting the umbilical cord immediately after the baby is born. This was the most common birthing practice in Western nations in past years and is believed to reduce the risk of infection. However, it does not provide the same potential benefits that delayed cord clamping or umbilical non-severance offer.
It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of each birthing practice with a healthcare provider before making a decision.
Related read: The Benefits of Natural Birth
Frequently Asked Questions
What is lotus birth risk?
Lotus birth presents risks to the newborn baby, including possible infection, sepsis, jaundice, and hepatitis. There have been no confirmed reports linking lotus birth with postpartum hemorrhage. There have been a small number of cases reporting the death of the newborn due to infection.
With these risks in mind, it is vital for parents to weigh their decision carefully before opting for a lotus birth.
Do lotus birth babies have belly buttons?
Yes, lotus birth babies have belly buttons. The umbilical cord is not cut, but instead kept attached to the baby until it naturally separates, so the baby still has a functioning navel just like any other newborn.
Therefore, it is safe and beneficial to practice lotus birth without damaging its natural development processes.
How does a lotus birth work?
Lotus birth is a practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after birth and allowing it to fall off naturally over several days. The placenta remains attached to the baby until the umbilical cord naturally separates, usually between three and ten days after birth.
This is believed to be a gentle ritual that comforts the baby.
How long does a lotus birth last?
On average, the cord and placenta separate naturally within three to ten days following birth. Therefore, the duration of a lotus birth will depend on environmental humidity levels, but it is generally only necessary that the umbilical cord stays attached for a few days postpartum.
This natural process lets the baby transition to life outside of the womb without being disturbed by a cord-cutting.
Although the practice of lotus birth is not generally accepted or taught by healthcare professionals, it has a rich history dating back centuries and is gaining popularity in some natural birthing circles.
There are numerous physical and spiritual benefits associated with lotus birth, including reduced risk of infection, improved placental investment and better neonatal outcomes. Proper care of the placenta after a lotus birth is also essential to ensure the baby’s safety and can be achieved by washing the placenta with warm water and preserved with salt, herbs, and essential oils.
It is important that mothers considering a lotus birth discuss the risks and benefits with their obstetrics provider prior to delivery in order to make an informed decision. For those who would prefer an alternative technique while still minimizing the trauma of cutting the umbilical cord immediately after childbirth, delayed cord clamping is the most viable option.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual mother to choose the birthing method that best meets her needs.