For many moms, delivering the placenta is the last part of the birthing process, often occurring after the cutting of the umbilical cord. However, some parents are forgoing the cutting of the cord altogether and opting to keep the placenta attached to baby– often for several days — in what is called a Lotus birth.
Lotus births, also known as umbilical non-severance, have gained popularity over recent years. In a Lotus birth, the baby remains attached via the umbilical cord to the placenta until the cord breaks naturally, which can take anywhere from 3-10 days. Parents who choose a Lotus birth carry the placenta around, often in a pouch or a cloth bag, so that it remains with the baby. Often, the placenta is sprinkled with pleasant smelling herbs or essential oils, as the decaying process creates an odor if untreated.
The Lotus birth is an important part of the pregnancy process for many cultures and countries. The origins of the Lotus birth in the Western world began in the early 1970s when a woman named Clair Lotus Day began to question the procedure of cutting the cord. After observing that a mother Chimpanzee left the cord attached until it dropped off, she decided to try that with her son.
The are many reasons that parents choose a Lotus birth. Some moms, like this British mom, believe that a Lotus birth has physical benefits, such as ensuring that the baby receives all of their blood supply. Others state that it reduces the risk of infection that occasionally occurs during the cutting of the cord.
While physical benefits are noted, many more moms practice Lotus births for the spiritual aspect. As the placenta plays such an important role in the development of the baby inside the womb, many mothers believe that keeping it attached allows the infant to better acclimate to life outside the womb. “The placenta, cord, and baby are one. Cutting it is artificially breaking this unity”, says Clara Riba in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Many midwives have touted the benefits of delayed cord clamping for years. In 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new recommendations that the umbilical cord remained unclamped for 30-60 seconds after birth.
However, an article in Live Science states that there is a significant difference between delayed cord clamping and a Lotus Birth. Many experts believe that once the cord stops pulsating, there remains no benefit.
In an email interview with Live Science, Dr. William Schwiezer said: “There is significant risk associated with keeping a newborn connected to what is essentially a dead and decaying organ.” He says there is a risk of infection due to bacterial overgrowth within the dead placental tissue.
Although there is a huge lack of evidence on either side of the debate, at least one published case study did infer a link between a Lotus birth and neonatal hepatitis.
While Lotus births are controversial, most moms believe that the right to choose should be left up to the individual.