‘Lotus Births’ Are On The Rise, And We Have Questions

‘Lotus Births’ Are On The Rise, And We Have Questions

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Okay, I consider myself to be very open-minded when it comes to choices women make about their births — or anything else, for that matter. If you want to give birth in a tub in your backyard, do it. And if there’s no way you’d give birth without your beloved epiduralawesome.

I believe that what matters most in a birth — besides safety, of course — is that a mother feels empowered by her birthing choices, however her birth pans out (which as we know, is often out of our control).

I erred on the crunchy side when it came to birthing my babies. I gave birth at home with two highly trained midwives. We didn’t bathe our babies for a few days after birth (besides spot-cleaning here and there), and they were basically skin-to-skin with me, doing nothing but breastfeeding, for several days.

So you’d think I’d be kind of into the newish trend that seems to be exploding in the birthing world and all over social media: the lotus birth. If you don’t know what it is, I’ll give you the lowdown. Instead of cutting the umbilical cord after birth, or delaying cord clamping until it stops pulsing, the baby stays attached to the entire placenta until the cord naturally dries up and falls off. This process can take quite a few days (3–10 days, according to some proponents of the practice), so you kind of need to carry the baby’s placenta around everywhere the baby goes — usually in a bowl or a pot, as shown here:

#ipuwhenua by @soultribeink #handmadelovemade #lotusbirth

A post shared by Ginkgo Philippa (@blue_storm) on

I do not understand this.

If this is something you want to do, go for it, of course. But the idea of having a rotting organ attached to my baby for days on end during the postpartum period is just about the least appealing idea I can possibly imagine.

Supporters of the idea feel that practicing lotus birth is the most natural and spiritually fulfilling way to deal with the afterbirth. As the folks at LotusBirth.net put it: “Lotus birth extends the birth time into the sacred days that follow and enables baby, mother and father and all family members to pause, reflect and engage in nature’s conduct. Lotus birth is a call to return to the rhythms of nature, to witness the natural order and to the experience of not doing, just being.”

Well, that’s all fine and good, but why would I need to walk around the house with a spoiled organ in a cooking pot in order to achieve that? As far as I’m concerned, having to deal with that amount of fuss would serve the total opposite purpose of “just being.”

It seems like it would make the entire first few days after birth that much more difficult (as if it isn’t difficult in many ways already!). Wouldn’t the first attempts at breastfeeding position be just totally awkward and cumbersome? Diapers changes wouldn’t be a walk in the park either. Plus, it’s not like you don’t have your hands full with a newborn, lugging them and all their stuff around — now you have to add a bowl of decay to the mix? And if you have other small children, too, I can’t imagine what sort of stressful situations could arise. Just one more thing to worry about? I’ll pass.

Ultimately, I guess the question is whether the practice has any merit from a health perspective. None of the lotus birth websites cite any medical evidence for the practice, and I couldn’t find any kind of study out there that supported it. I went digging further, and spoke to Dr. Sylvia Romm, a New York-based pediatrician who has worked in labor and delivery. Dr. Romm gave me the scoop on lotus births from a medical perspective.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence, per se,” Dr. Romm says. “I’m pretty sure no one has done a randomized control trial of lotus vs. non-lotus birth and looked at the health outcomes.”

Dr. Romm is also concerned about the possibility of infections that might crop us as the placenta decomposes, and warns against the practice for that reason. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists released a similar warning about the risk of infections in a 2008 memo that addressed “non-severance” births (i.e., lotus births).

Dr. Romm dutifully points out that lotus births should be distinguished from the idea of “delayed cord clamping,” which is where you let the cord finish pulsing for several minutes after birth to make sure that all the blood from the placenta is transferred to the baby. This practice actually has recognized health benefits and is supported by major health organizations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“The health benefits of delaying cord clamping for a few minutes are well-documented,” says Dr. Romm, “However, lotus births go far beyond this recommendation and cannot be assumed to have similar risks or benefits.”

Call me closed-minded. Call me spiritually disconnected. But I just don’t think carrying around a dried up pot of rotting tissue is going to do anything to align my chakras after birth, and sounds like nothing more than a royal, bloody pain in the ass.