Could a “Lotus Birth” Be Better For You and Baby?
Whether a woman is giving birth in a giraffe head, Drake is dating Jennihana Minaj or some misspelled astrology meme is telling me “Saggiterius is most like Confetti Cupcake Pop Tarts” I unfortunately assume that a majority of the posts that scroll past on my Facebook feed are fake news. Call me Donald Trump, but I just feel like people will post anything for likes, attention and validation so I don’t take much I see on social media seriously. So of course I felt like this the other day when a friend reposted a status from a user called, “My Lotus Birth Baby”. Maybe I still have some lingering pregnancy hormones, because I couldn’t just keep scrolling when pictures of a precious newborn baby caught my attention with…wait…is that a placenta lying next to him on a pillow?
I had to zoom in and when I did I saw pictures of this adorable baby boy with what looked to be his shriveled umbilical cord still attached to the placenta. Some pictures showed a young woman basking in the glow of new motherhood, cradling her newborn in her arms in the comfort of her own home. In another picture, the placenta sat nearby on a satin pillow covered in what I first thought were maggots (but later found out was actually rosemary and other herbs). What in the natural, holistic hell was going on in these photos? The description (which I admittedly didn’t read until after looking at the pictures) provided details on a practice known as umbilical non-severance more commonly known as “lotus birth”.
According to a Huffington Post article published a few years ago, a lotus birth occurs when a woman chooses to leave the umbilical cord attached to the newborn baby after birth and allow it to detach on its own. This process can take as long as 10 days and requires the new parent(s) to care for the placenta as well. Care includes keeping the placenta as free from humidity as possible, and parent(s) will often use drying agents such as salt and herbs to accomplish this (hence the rosemary).
“This can’t be real. These chicks will do anything for the Book,” I thought wearing a shade of self-righteous scarlet that doesn’t suit me. I began typing a comment that started with, “This sounds like all kinds of wrong.” Shortly after I expressed why I wouldn’t be signing up for a lotus birth anytime soon, a high school friend chimed in and mentioned she had recently had a lotus birth of her own with the birth of her daughter and felt it was actually better for the baby. It was then I began to consider this might be an actual thing and bee-lined it for *Corinne’s inbox.
“When? Where? Why? and How?” I asked my old friend and she was more than happy to educate me about the process. A mother of three children (two sons, six and seven years old and a one-year-old daughter), and currently expecting a fourth child, *Corinne is a veteran mother, entrepreneur and just generally super smart chick whose opinion I trust and respect. She shared with me why she chose a lotus birth for her last pregnancy:
“I have always been interested in the lotus birth but was scared to try it due to the negativity that I have heard about it from the past.”
In a country dominated by modern medicine, umbilical non-severance is a practice that isn’t endorsed by much of the medical community and therefore most people don’t have much knowledge about what it entails. Experts warn that opting to leave the placenta attached to the baby after birth isn’t without risk. In 2008, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) released a statement outlining some concerns after a small number of women in the United Kingdom started practicing lotus births. Patrick O’Brien, an RCOG spokesperson noted the following:
“If left for a period of time after the birth, there is a risk of infection in the placenta which can consequently spread to the baby.”
“The placenta is particularly prone to infection as it contains blood. At the post-delivery stage, it has no circulation and is essentially dead tissue.”
Corinne agrees that woman seeking lotus births should be prepared to provide extra care to avoid these risks:
“Lotus births require additional time. You have to take care of it like another baby. You have to wait for full transfusion of the umbilical blood into the baby before handling the placenta. Then you will wash the placenta gently with warm water and pat it dry. Once the placenta is dry, then you put it into a colander for about 24 hrs so that it can drain. Afterwards, you’ll put the placenta into a cloth and dress it necessarily with sea salt and lavender to mask the musky smell.”
Still, she’s happy with the decision since prior birthing experiences didn’t always go according to plan:
“I knew about the lotus birth since I had my first child. For my first two births, I had them in a traditional hospital setting. When it was time to give birth, my doctor wasn’t there because she wasn’t on call at the time. I ended up giving birth with doctors that I didn’t know which made me feel a tad uncomfortable. I always wanted to experience having a birth in a birthing center or with a midwife. It’s much more personal. Midwifes are there from the moment you are pregnant to the birth of your baby. My midwife actually encourages lotus births because of the benefits to the baby.”
But now that we covered the “what”, why do women pursue lotus births? Does it benefit the mother and/or child in any way? Many midwives champion lotus births saying that allowing the cord to fall away in its own time leads to a cleaner wound at the umbilical site which lessens the chances of infection. Midwife, Mary Ceallaigh expressed in the HuffPost piece that the practice also “allows a complete transfer of placental/cord blood into the baby at a time when the baby needs that nourishment the most.”
Corinne also shared some of the benefits she’s witnessed from her daughter’s lotus birth. She says her daughter is calmer and more receptive to her than her sons and even when placed in daycare she wasn’t prone to sickness and infections nearly as often as the other children. Corinne also expressed how having a lotus birth affected her as a mother as well:
“It was more a mental and emotional thing for me. I was overwhelmed with joy that I was able to do it without the stares and snide remarks. My midwife was with me every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
I’m still not exactly sold on lotus birth, but I am also the same person who was relieved when I found out I was going to have a c-section. I like the idea of hospital, a scheduled c-section and the control and predictability that comes with modern medicine. I’m just not a midwife and water birth kind of girl at this time in my life. But I do like the idea of becoming more intimate with the changes of your body and witnessing the surrealism of what it’s capable of in a way that traditional hospital births may not always allow you to do. If anything, learning about lotus birth reminded me that women have been doing this since the beginning of time and bringing healthy babies into the world whether they’re surrounded by a team of medical professionals or in the backseat of a cab.
Thinking you may want your next birth to be a lotus birth? Corinne says that every mother should do what they feel is best for them:
“Do extensive research. What may work for me, may not work for you. Make sure that if you do decide to do the lotus birth, that you have that written down in your birth plan especially if you are giving birth in a traditional hospital setting. There will be some doctors that discourage you from doing it, but there will be that particular doctor that will support you and assist you if needed.”
Have you ever had a lotus birth? Is it something you’d be interested in?
*Name has been changed for privacy
Images via Bigstock
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.