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).
Whats On This Page
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, the outcome we want is 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.
It can be physically and psychologically stressful requiring total care and support to move from childbirth to maternal child-care. (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.
What is the Placenta?
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.
- The placenta is a fleshy spongy tissue with a lot of blood vessels and starts to grow in the womb as soon as conception happens.
- Its main function is to support the growing baby - it also grows as baby does.
- The placenta connects to the baby through the umbilical cord.
- Resting inside the womb like a little cushion full of blood vessels, the placenta’s blood vessels interact with those of the womb.
- The placenta’s vessels receive oxygen and other nutrients from the mum through the umbilical cord. These pass into the baby for nourishment, development and growth.
- Waste from baby is taken away by other blood vessels through the cord. The waste goes into the placenta and on to the mum’s body for disposal. A fantastic network that works till it’s time for the baby’s birth.
So hopefully this simple explanation can provide the foundation for understanding Lotus Birth as an option for women.
You can make decisions being fully aware of the facts, knowing what is most important - your and your baby's health.
What is Lotus Birth?
‘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 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, in the Lotus Birth protocol, there is 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.
History of Lotus Birth
Lotus birthing is a widespread practice 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.
What are the Benefits of a Lotus Birth?
- Some practitioners believe it reduces stress to the baby.
- They suggest that cutting the umbilical cord immediately after birth (ICC- Immediate Cord Clamping) results in crying and distress.
- These groups feel that by leaving the cord alone, you allow baby continue in a calm relaxed environment for as long as possible.
- Some practitioners support an aspect of the Lotus birth referred to as Delayed Cord Clamping (DCC).
- DCC means instead of clamping the cord immediately after delivery, it is free for 2-3 minutes before clamping.
It is important to know that as soon as a baby is born and takes its first breaths, its circulation takes over the placenta's job. 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.
Disadvantages of Lotus Birth
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, uppermost being the risk of infection being transferred from the placenta to the baby that 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.
(Original version published in LagosMums)
Editing by AskAwayHealth Team
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