Lotus birth isn't as weird as you think

Feb 20, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Image: Artistic Captures/E+/Getty Images

Delayed umbilical cord clamping is becoming more common, but a more in-depth version of this, the lotus birth, is blossoming in some circles. What's it all about?

A lotus birth is not a childbirth method in the traditional sense — you don't take a class and you don't learn how to deliver your baby without pain meds. A lotus birth describes what happens after your baby is born and you deliver your placenta. There is no cord clamping, and there is no cord cutting — instead, your placenta is gently wrapped and, still attached via umbilical cord to your baby, goes wherever your baby goes until the cord dries up and falls off.

birth doll

Image: LotusBorn

According to a site that deals with the finer aspects of lotus birth, once you welcome your baby (and your placenta), you wait an appropriate amount of time for the full transfusion of blood from the placenta — this is generally when the cord stops pulsating, in about 10 or 15 minutes. The placenta should then be gently washed and patted dry, and then placed in a strainer or colander for a full day to allow for drainage.

After the first 24 hours, you should wrap the placenta in absorbent material and place it in a bag, and it must be carted around everywhere your baby goes. This material should be changed out at least once a day, and more often if it needs it. There are other options too, such as laying the placenta on a layer of sea salt or sprinkling it with herbs to speed up the drying process. A baby's umbilical cord will dry up and come off within three to 10 days, so that's how long the placenta will be by your baby's side.

The practice isn't common and and some question umbilical non-severance — in fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in England strongly recommends against it, as there is a risk of infection that can spread from the placenta to the newborn.

However, there are those who feel that there are numerous benefits to a lotus birth. Dr. Sarah Buckley outlines how a lotus birth allows mothers to fully honor that third stage of labor, which results in an organ that is commonly considered medical waste. The natural result of a lotus birth means that you and your baby are secluded, warm and ensconced at home, and it's thought by some that a lotus birth allows children to be more whole than a baby whose cord is cut shortly after birth.

There is a spiritual, ritual aspect to a lotus birth that might not be apparent on the surface, but that's what makes it so important for many moms. And when you think about it, keeping a placenta close by doesn't mean you're hefting it along with you as you go to the store — you're staying home, surrounded by love and your baby, in a peaceful setting.

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