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Characteristics, risks, and benefits of a lotus birth

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Some families feel that a lotus birth respects childbirth, but the fact is that it can involve enormous risks. Continue reading to find out more.

Many women feel that modern births are no longer emotionally and spiritually anchored – Therefore, more and more people are looking for other options, for example, a lotus birth. However, it is important to remember that what turned childbirth into an extremely medical, methodical, and controlled hospital procedure was the desire to reduce mortality and morbidity in mothers and infants.

Good care for mothers and babies is a priority of the World Health Organization (WHO). By using evidence-based care interventions, the average global risk of childbirth has been reduced from one death per 73 women to one per 180.

Therefore, parents must be well informed when deciding how they want to bring their child into the world. This includes non-evidence-based practices such as lotus birth.

What is a lotus birth?

This type of delivery involves leaving the umbilical cord intact after the baby is born. The baby remains attached to the umbilical cord and placenta until it detaches on its own. This usually happens between the third and tenth day after birth.

The placenta must be washed to remove any remaining blood, and it is usually wrapped in an absorbent material, such as a diaper. Finally, it is rubbed with salt and aromatic herbs to regulate humidity and prevent unpleasant odors from developing.

The origin of this methodology

The lotus birth takes its name from Clair Lotus Day, who observed in 1974 that newborn chimpanzees naturally separate from the placenta. This raised questions about how we humans deal with this during childbirth.

The purpose of the umbilical cord and placenta

A pregnancy cannot take place without the placenta, as it acts as a barrier and prevents the mother’s immune system from attacking the baby as if it were a foreign body.

In addition, it supplies the fetus with oxygen and all the nutrients that the baby needs for its own development from the mother through the placenta and the umbilical cord. It is important to keep in mind that after birth the baby will be able to get oxygen into the bloodstream through its own lungs.

Benefits associated with a lotus birth

The first expected benefit of a lotus birth is to prevent the baby from developing anemia, as there will be no disturbance in the transfer of blood from the placenta. There is also an assumption that there is no risk of infection because the umbilical cord is still attached.

Let’s be clear that these are just hypotheses, as there is no scientific evidence for this.

Why do some families choose a lotus birth?

However, the main reason expectant mothers and fathers choose a lotus birth is none of the above. They do it because they see it as an alternative to trying to add spiritual meaning to the time around childbirth.

From the lotus perspective, the placenta is a sacred organ, a symbol of life, fertility, and an unbreakable bond between mother and child. This practice supports the mother’s right to choose the conditions of birth for her newborn.

The effect of a lotus birth on a child

From the point of view of the lotus birth, the umbilical cord and placenta form a unity with the newborn, and the newborn decides for himself at what point he or she is ready to separate from it.

Some believe that preservation of the placenta and umbilical cord prevents the baby from being exposed to the trauma of an abrupt separation from the mother and the organ that protected them during pregnancy. Similarly, parents who have undergone this birth report spending more time with their babies, as it is difficult to move them while they are still attached to the placenta.

The risks of a lotus birth

At this point, you may be wondering why lotus births are not the norm if they are so good. However, as mentioned above, there is no scientific evidence that it is a safe and useful method.

In fact, lotus birth is risky, and most medical specialists advise against this procedure. As long as there is no firm evidence of its benefits, and as long as there are reported cases of danger to the newborn, it is neither ethical nor practical to recommend it.

Contrary to the expectation that there is no risk of infection to the baby by not cutting the umbilical cord, the rotting placenta can actually become a source of bacteria. Cases of omphalitis (infection of the navel)  and sepsis (infection of the blood) have been reported.

In addition, uncontrolled and permanent blood flow from the placenta can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), polycythemia (too many red blood cells causing increased blood viscosity), and thrombosis.

Recommendations regarding lotus births

Remember the following when deciding under what circumstances you want to give birth to your baby:

  • Inform yourself using credible sources and get answers to your questions from a doctor you trust.
  • The method of delivery (vaginal or cesarean section) depends on your health history, the progress of the pregnancy, and the well-being of the baby. It will be easier to determine whether the maternity care has been good and continuous if you have attended all the specified examinations and checks.
  • Do not give birth at home unless you have a low-risk pregnancy. This applies as long as there are no signs that the mother or her baby is in danger.
  • Easy access to healthcare is key. Healthcare does not look the same in all countries. Thus, up to 40% of all low-risk pregnancies may be classified as complicated at birth.
  • Doctors strongly recommend that the woman prepares for childbirth, and this includes a birth plan and prenatal course.

Active management of labor and delivery

Postpartum hemorrhage remains the most common cause of death in childbirth.  Active management of labor, or the third stage of labor, is an important intervention to prevent this complication.

Active management of labor mainly refers to three things:

  • The primary intervention is to use a drug such as oxycodone to help the uterus contract, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Controlled extraction of the umbilical cord
  • Massage of the uterus

Delayed removal of the umbilical cord

The WHO also recommends a later cutting off the umbilical cord. It consists in not clamping or cutting the umbilical cord immediately but waiting at least one minute after the birth of the baby before doing so.

With the exception of newborns who need respiratory support, this delayed removal of the umbilical cord prevents anemia and other serious diseases that can affect the newborn.

Respectful maternity care

The recommendations of international pregnancy and childbirth organizations aim to treat the mother with dignity and respect. They also protect her privacy and confidentiality.

The goal is not only to prevent the mother from getting sick or dying but also to empower women and affirm their rights. This process begins before conception and continues after the baby is born.

Humanized birth

Skin-to-skin contact is essential in the first hour to facilitate breastfeeding after birth, especially when the mother is well and the baby is born without complications.

The attending midwife places the newborn on the mother’s chest, wipes it, and assesses breathing. In addition, the midwife waits a few minutes before cutting the umbilical cord. The child is then covered with a hat and a dry blanket.

The midwife does not skip other routine care but merely postpones it until after the first hour of the child’s close contact with the mother.

Lotus birth is not a good idea

Despite the lack of scientific evidence for any benefits of lotus birth, it cannot be ignored that parents who have chosen this type of birth consider it a positive experience that they will repeat.

This is partly because our most human emotions, beliefs, thoughts, and spirituality are an important part of our lives. Medical knowledge, on the other hand, often focuses on the biological and physical and can neglect our other needs.

Medical treatment does not have to be synonymous with a cold, dehumanized, or traumatic birth. There are ways to reconcile the holistic needs of the mother, father, and child that pose no health risk.

Parents must read and verify the characteristics of the care offered as part of their preparation for childbirth. Lotus birth is not generally recommended. However, there are many care facilities that use very gentle, humane, and spiritual alternatives.

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