There’s a new trend amongst natural home birthers getting attention by the media…the lotus birth. When I first heard the term, images from Ina May’s book Spiritual Midwifery came to mind of women having natural, orgasmic births imagining a lotus flower opening to help them open for birth. The term actually refers to an extreme version of delayed cord clamping and not a natural childbirth practice as implied.
Otherwise known as umbilical nonseverance, Lotus Birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord and placenta attached to your baby after he is born. It’s well documented that waiting to cut your baby’s umbilical cord is a healthy practice, but Lotus Birth keeps it attached to a newborn, along with the placenta, until it falls off naturally (which takes much longer than the recommended 90 second cord clamping delay recommended by Dr. Alan Greene).
Delayed cord clamping differs from lotus birth in that the cord is clamped and severed after it has stopped pumping, which is typically about 15 minutes. The lotus birth allows for the placenta and umbilical cord to fall of naturally, which can take several days, at least that is how long I recall it took for my children’s cord stump to fall off.
Benefits of lotus birth
Why would parents choose to leave the placenta and cord attached to their infant? I can’t help but remember how awkward it was to breastfeed my son when he had drains in his chest from open heart surgery. I think I would have similar anxiety about pulling on the umbilical cord when moving or breastfeeding my child of lotus birth.
Lotus Fertility explains the benefit of lotus birth:
In Lotus Birth, the fact that the baby’s previous months contained the constant pulsing companionship of the
cord in the womb, and the protective, pulsing placenta pillow, is highly valued, along with the significantly
reduced risk of infection at the tender navel site. (Infected cord stumps are sadly an unnecessary but very
real danger for infants in unhygienic conditions).
When the placenta is born, it is kept at the same level as the baby to allow for full transfusion of nutrient rich
blood & hormones and full expansion and function of the baby’s new breathing apparatus, optimized on a
deep internal level when there is no additional stress on their system. There is no rush to do anything with
the placenta – it is often just wrapped in a soft cloth near the mother during the precious first hours of bonding
(the ‘Primal-adaptive” period as named by Michel Odent M.D.) after the completed birth…
It ensures that an average of 100mL of precious red blood cells will transfer gently to the baby at its most
critical time of need, to contribute towards the amazing exponential brain development of the first year, and
not be disposed of or harvested due to adult well-intentioned mistrust of the infant’s physiological integrity.
Emotional health of the newborn and family is facilitated by focusing on the phenomenal baby as a whole, with
no attention diverted away through adult traditions of separation.
Benefits delayed cord clamping
Allowing placental blood to flow into the neonate for 3 minutes, rather than cutting the umbilical cord within the first 10 seconds, as is common, increases blood volume sufficiently to elevate ferritin at 4 months, finds a study published online November 16 in the British Medical Journal…
Ola Andersson, MD, a neonatologist at the Hospital of Halland in Sweden, and colleagues enrolled 400 full-term infants born after low-risk pregnancies between April 2008 and September 2009, and randomized the time of cord cutting to either 10 seconds or 3 minutes. When a birth was imminent, the midwife would open an envelope assigning either cord-cut time. Midwives held the neonates 20 cm below the level of the mothers’ vulvas for 30 seconds and then placed the infants on the mothers’ abdomens to facilitate blood transfer….
Every 20 babies having delayed clamping could prevent 1 case of iron deficiency, the researchers estimate. They conclude that delayed clamping “should be considered as standard care for full term deliveries after uncomplicated pregnancies.”
Delayed cord clamping should be longer than three minutes, as described in the above quote. Allowing the cord to completely stop pulsing is optimal.
Whether you choose a lotus birth or delayed cord clamping, your baby will benefit. There is no rush to cut the umbilical cord under normal conditions. Apparently, the results are long lasting. The New York Times reports on the same Swedish study cited above:
In blood tests at two days after birth, there were no significant differences in iron status. But when researchers analyzed blood taken at four months, they found iron concentrations were 45 percent higher in the delayed clamping group, and iron deficiency was significantly more prevalent in those who were clamped early.
A lotus birth may seem a bit too extreme for most parents, but delayed cord clamping is a simple practice everyone can embrace.
Image: Yoga on Bigstock