Birth Choices – Is the Lotus Birth for you? – Part 1
December 28, 2021
Updated December 2021
This article analyses a particular birthing choice, the lotus birth – to help you decide if it is a good option for you. (First of a 2-part series).
In many cultures and countries, the birth of a baby is an important event and a profound experience for families.
It is arguably the end of one phase heralding the beginning of another – defining the continuation of the human race.
It is existential!
Yet, while childbirth is such a gift from nature, it can sometimes be challenging with unpredictable outcomes.
Well, that is to say – we know what should happen, but sometimes it doesn’t.
Whether by natural or assisted delivery, we want a safe mum and baby.
Therefore, the birth process has been the subject of extensive studies around the world to improve our understanding of which methods work best.
Childbirth starts from the beginning of labour into the delivery of the baby and, finally, the placenta.
Moving from childbirth to maternal child-care can be physically and psychologically stressful, requiring total care and support. (By the way, this includes the period of 6 weeks just after the baby is born).
And now let’s look at the (controversial subject) of Lotus Births.
First, let us summarise the relationship between the groups – mum, baby and placenta. This is because these connected entities are involved in the delivery process.
So hopefully, this simple explanation can provide the foundation for understanding Lotus Birth as an option for women.
You can make decisions by being fully aware of the facts, knowing what is most important – your and your baby’s health.
‘A Lotus Birth is the process of leaving the cord and placenta to detach naturally in the days after birth.’
Basically, the whole essence of a Lotus Birth is to allow this process to continue until its natural end.
This may take up to one week, unlike the alternative – just after birth by birth attendants (midwives or doctors).
In many settings following natural or assisted delivery, immediately after the baby arrives and takes its first breaths, we cut and clamp the umbilical cord.
Then while the baby is bonding with mum, the birth attendants concentrate on the ‘birth’ or delivery of the placenta.
After birth, mum, baby and placenta become separate parts.
However, the Lotus Birth protocol has no umbilical cord clamping and cutting.
First, attendants deliver the baby and provide immediate care while awaiting the delivery of the placenta.
Then, on complete delivery of the placenta, they place it in a clean bowl or wrapped in an absorbable cloth.
Attendants also keep the placenta beside mum and baby for at least 1 hour – before trying to clean/preserve it.
Lotus birthing is widespread among many cultures, including early American pioneers, some Aborigines, and the Balinese.
More recently, the practice seems to have returned to the United States and Australia in the 1980s. It is also gained some recognition in the United Kingdom in recent years.
Knowing that as soon as a baby is born and takes its first breaths, its circulation takes over the placenta’s job is important. This is accepted thinking among most health practitioners.
On the other hand, supporters of Lotus birth believe that by holding off cutting the umbilical cord even for 2-3 minutes, the baby gains from placenta blood (carrying oxygen and vital nutrients).
This might be useful, given that evidence from some research suggests that 10% of babies born in the US develop anaemia. Some believe this is due to cord-cutting immediately after birth (ICC).
Preventing anaemia in newborns can prevent many complications like impaired mental development.
Given the above potential benefits of Lotus birth, what are the potential downsides and risks to inform the decision?
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK has expressed concern about Lotus births, stating that there is insufficient evidence about the process and its benefits.
It also warns about potential risks, the uppermost being the risk of infection being transferred from the placenta to the baby, which can be life-threatening.
While women have the option to make informed choices on their birth process, Lotus Birth is certainly not a common practice or the norm in UK hospitals – in normal or assisted deliveries.
In 2016, a study was reported that showed a Lotus birth baby who may have developed liver damage following an infection that was most likely associated with the birth method.
The child, born at home, needed an admission on the third day of life, at which point the umbilical cord was cut.
He seemed to improve after some treatment but had to be readmitted as an emergency when his condition worsened.
Tests conducted in the hospital suggested that the liver damage likely came from an infection, and the possible source was the mode of birth.
Fortunately, he recovered and (at the time of the report in 2016), was doing well.
What do you think of the Lotus Birth method so far?
As usual, your thoughts make a great part of the story!
Read part 2 here.
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on various healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and help promote quality healthcare. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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