Many people believe lotus births are gentle and beneficial for their newborn babies. However, there’s little research to support these claims, and most information about the practice is merely anecdotal. Delayed cord clamping — where hospitals clamp the umbilical cord within minutes of birth — is the recommended practice globally. If you are an expectant parent, it helps to learn about types of deliveries and their potential benefits.
Here’s information about lotus births, including the potential benefits and risks of leaving the umbilical cord attached to the placenta after birth.
What Is a Lotus Birth?
A lotus birth occurs when a mother leaves the umbilical cord attached to the placenta until the two separate naturally. The standard procedure involves hospitals clamping the umbilical cord within minutes of birth. In a lotus birth, the cord typically falls off on its own after five to 15 days.
The length of the process can depend on climate and humidity levels, during which parents must take good care of the placenta. Some people store it in a fabric bag to reduce odors. Others treat it with salts, lavender oil or other herbs.
Lotus births are believed to have roots in ancient cultures. A modern resurgence has led some cultures to practice them today. Some people view lotus births as a way to gently transition the baby to life outside the womb without the trauma of being cut from the mother. It is often described as a spiritual practice, with mothers viewing the placenta as belonging to the baby rather than a medical byproduct.
Why Is the Placenta Important in Fetal Development and Childbirth?
The placenta is a temporary organ crucial to your baby’s development and childbirth. It develops seven to 10 days after conception and attaches to the uterine wall. The placenta connects to your baby via the umbilical cord. Together, the placenta and umbilical cord keep your baby alive while in the uterus.
The placenta has the following essential functions:
- Provides oxygen and nutrients
- Removes waste and carbon dioxide
- Creates hormones to help the baby develop
- Passes immunity from the mother to the baby
- Helps protect the baby
The placenta begins producing hormones at the end of the first trimester, growing throughout your pregnancy from just a few cells to several inches long. It keeps your baby alive and healthy by providing glucose, nutrients, and oxygen through the umbilical cord while filtering out harmful waste from the baby’s blood. Essentially, it acts as the baby’s lungs, liver, and kidney until birth. Before delivery, the placenta also passes antibodies from the mother to the child, jumpstarting its immunity in the first few months of life.
What Are the Benefits of a Lotus Birth?
While research supports the benefits of delayed cord clamping, data on lotus birth benefits is limited to anecdotal research and small case studies. Proponents of lotus birth believe the practice might lower the risk of infections since it doesn’t cause injury to the umbilical cord. However, because the placenta is dead, lotus birth can also increase the risk of infection.
Practitioners of lotus birth claim it provides the following benefits:
- A less-invasive transition for the baby from the womb to the world
- Decreased injury to the belly button
- Increased nourishment from the placenta
- A way to spiritually honor the shared life between the baby and placenta
The umbilical cord distributes the baby’s blood supply before birth. No research supports the claim that lotus births increase blood supply once the placenta is birthed since the organ is no longer alive or circulating. As a result, it’s unlikely that lotus births provide real health benefits.
Lotus births might be necessary for emergencies, such as being unable to receive immediate medical attention after birth. Keeping the placenta attached in these circumstances might lower the risk of complications like hemorrhage or infection while you wait for help.
Where Are Lotus Births Available?
The practice of lotus births originated in 1974 after Clair Lotus Day, who observed the uncut cords in chimpanzee birth and requested the same for her own upcoming hospital birth. Two women helped spread the practice in the United States: Jeannine Parvati Baker, a midwife and yoga practitioner, and Shivam Rachana, the founder of the International College of Spiritual Midwifery. Lotus births have also been observed in other countries, including Australia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.
Are Lotus Births Safe?
Since there is little research on lotus births, it’s difficult to determine whether the practice is safe. Due to the lack of research, in 2008, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in the United Kingdom recommended against the practice. They cited potential safety concerns, including the potential risk of infection with lotus births.
What Are the Risks Surrounding Lotus Birth?
The primary risk associated with lotus births is the potential for infection. Letting the umbilical cord and placenta separate naturally can put the baby at risk of omphalitis, an infection in the umbilical cord area. Because the placenta is dead tissue, it is prone to bacterial growth. When this happens, an infection can quickly spread to the baby and become severe, leading to septic shock or death.
In one case, a newborn presented neonatal hepatitis, or liver inflammation, following a lotus birth. Data revealed the cause was an infection, implying that lotus births could be a risk factor for this condition. There are no proven methods or medical advice on how to store the placenta to protect the baby from infection. Additionally, lotus birth risks include cord avulsion, where the baby can become injured due to the cord accidentally being ripped away from the body.
Ultimately, lotus birth risks and complications can lead to life-threatening outcomes for a newborn, and claims surrounding lotus birth benefits haven’t been proven. If you hope to honor the placenta but are worried about the risks, you might practice other rituals, such as burying it in a special ceremony. Some people even choose to preserve the cord blood, tissue, and placenta tissue for its health benefits.
Examine the Potential Benefits of Placental Tissue Storage With Americord®
While many believe that lotus births can benefit a newborn, there is not enough research to support these claims. The number of lotus birth risks makes it crucial to ask your doctor or midwife for their recommendations before deciding on the practice. If you want to preserve your placental tissue, turn to Americord®.
We are the only company to offer CryoMaxx™ Processing for cord and placental tissue. When you store cord and placental tissue, you can use it when the need arises for surgical and topical applications. We pride ourselves on quality, innovation, and exceptional customer service, so you can rest assured you are in safe hands when you choose us.
To learn more about placental tissue storage, call 866-503-6005 today.