Imagine you’re in labor, and that you’ve just had your baby.
The pain suddenly goes away, a tiny human is placed on your chest, and what happens next? The umbilical cord is cut, right? Not always.
More and more parents are choosing to delay cutting the cord by minutes, or even longer while they wait for it to stop pulsing. But what if delayed cord clamping just doesn’t seem like enough for you?
What if you want to take it a step further? Well, that’s where a lotus birth comes in.
What Is A Lotus Birth?
Unlike a homebirth, which tells you exactly what it is right there in its name, the term lotus birth is a little more ambiguous. Nothing in the name tells you what it is, and in fact, it doesn’t refer to the actual birthing process at all.
Instead, the term refers to what you do to your baby, and more specifically, your placenta after you’ve already given birth.
But you might have heard that in recent years some moms have chosen to wait until the cord stops pulsating before making the cut. This makes sure all of the blood and cord blood stem cells can make their way into the baby.
This can help reduce the risk of anemia and can result in a 60 percent increase in a baby’s red blood cell counts as well as a 30 percent increase in a baby’s blood volume. Some doctors believe this can help ease the transition from the womb to the outside world (source).
And then there’s the lotus birth, a choice for moms who feel they want to take delayed cord clamping to a whole new level.
There are two different types of lotus births, a short-term and a long-term. In a short-term lotus birth, the placenta is eventually severed after a few days, and in a long-term, it’s allowed to fall off naturally.
Why Are Women Choosing It?
So why choose a lotus birth? Does carrying around your baby with an extra organ attached just sound like fun to some women? Not exactly.
Parents choose a lotus birth because they feel it comes with a lot of benefits to their baby, as well as to them as a family.
Here are a few reasons parents choose to do a lotus birth.
The placenta provided essential nutrients for your baby while he or she grew inside of you. So, it doesn’t seem like too far of a stretch to assume it can keep providing benefits until it naturally falls off, right? That’s what many parents who choose a lotus birth believe.
Advocates of lotus births report a higher blood volume, with anywhere from 80 to 100 milliliters being transferred to the baby. It’s also been claimed that lotus birth babies do not experience weight loss after the birth, and they also believe it lowers the risk of infection since cord severance is technically an open wound (source).
The placenta is your baby’s original lifeline. It cared for and nourished your baby for the nine months it was growing in your womb. Because of this, some parents feel the baby has not only a physical, but an emotional and even spiritual, attachment to the placenta.
Many parents who choose a lotus birth believe it provides emotional benefits for their child by allowing them to slowly and naturally be disconnected from the placenta, instead of abruptly by cutting the cord (source). They feel the baby should have a slow transition into the natural world, giving them time to slowly acclimate to the world around them.
Parents who choose a lotus birth report calmer babies who seem less stressed than babies who do experience having their cord cut.
Many parents feel a lotus birth promotes bonding between parents and their baby. This is because you likely do not want to be up and going around town with a placenta attached to your baby. Who would?
Instead, many feel choosing a lotus birth makes them take the time to rest, slow down, and spend that time holding and bonding with their baby.
Some believe a lotus birth allows for faster healing for both you and your baby during the postpartum period.
For mom, it’s believed this comes from the same thing that helps with bonding — it causes the mom to slow down. Slowing down is just what the mother’s body needs to heal correctly, and trying to go back to normal too quickly can lead to complications such as postpartum depression and heavy bleeding (source).
For your baby, it is believed the navel will heal faster if you do a lotus birth. It’s also thought that less trauma happens to the navel at this time because the cord stump does not get caught on the diaper or clothing while you’re waiting for it to fall off.
How Exactly Is It Done?
Okay, you’ve done your research, and you’ve decided to do a lotus birth for your baby.
Do you just leave the placenta sitting in a bowl until it dries and detaches itself? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy? Nope.
There is a process you have to go through for the placenta to dry properly and stay fresh until it is ready to detach from your baby.
Here is the step-by-step method for doing it correctly.
- When the baby is born, the placenta is allowed to detach and come out of the mother naturally. No Pitocin will be used to speed up the process.
- The placenta is laid at the same level as the baby and allowed to sit until it stops pulsing.
- The placenta and baby are taken to the sink, and the placenta is gently rinsed off. Once it’s rinsed off, it is patted dry with a natural absorbent cloth.
- The placenta is rubbed down with a mixture of salt and herbs, usually rosemary and lavender, and placed in a bowl, bag, or container.
- The placenta needs to be checked on at least daily, and the container must be cleaned out. More salt and herbs should be added each day, so the placenta stays fresh and does not start to spoil.
- As time goes on, the cord and placenta will start to harden, and eventually fall off. In the meantime, make sure to keep your placenta relatively close to your baby, so the cord stays lax and does not tug on the baby. Also, keep baby in loose clothing and blankets to prevent irritation.
What Are Doctors Saying?
While lotus births are gaining momentum among parents, doctors are a little more apprehensive about this birthing trend.
Doctors seem to agree that delaying cord clamping is beneficial to the baby, but once the cord stops pumping, so do its benefits (source). That is because once a placenta stops circulating, it is essentially dead tissue (source).
The problem with dead tissue is it is more prone to infection, and this could potentially have a negative impact on your baby since your baby is still attached to the placenta.
It’s also good to remember bacteria often make their way into the placenta during labor, and the longer the placenta is attached, the more likely it is that these bacteria will make their way into your baby. This can lead to infection in the umbilical cord and make your baby sick.
Experts say, as of now, the proven risks outweigh the perceived benefits of a lotus birth (source). And that while in the end, it is up to you to decide what is best for you and your baby, it is recommended you hold off on a lotus birth at least until more research can be done.
Personally, while I agree that there should be a delay in cutting the cord until it stops pulsating, I believe the benefits end there and that there is no medical advantage to keeping the placenta attached.
Editor's Note:Christine Traxler, MD, BS
When It’s All Said And Done
There are a lot of choices to make regarding the birth of your baby.
At home or in the hospital? Doctor or midwife? Delayed cord clamping, instant clamping, or lotus birth?
In the end, we can’t tell you what to decide. Your birth and postpartum time is a personal matter. What works for your friend or coworke1538873138r might not work for you, and that’s okay.
If you’re interested in a lotus birth, we hope this article helps give you a better understanding of the process, its benefits, and its risks.
Have you had a lotus birth, or are you considering one? Do you have any comments for someone considering this option? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.