Photo: Renee Bergeron of Little Earthling Photography
Giving birth is a highly individualised and personal experience. Over the pregnancy journey, women start to think about what type of birth they want. For some women, it is a home birth in the comfort of their familiar surroundings. Other women may want a water birth which can be more relaxing and take away some anxiety for some. Then, there is always the option of the traditional in-hospital birth which still remains the most common place to give birth.
Another lesser-known way to giving birth is called the ‘lotus birth’. This is a different method and different way of viewing the way we give birth and what happens at the end of the journey. In a lotus birth, the umbilical cord is not cut immediately, as it is in other birthing methods.
There are many reasons and explanations behind a lotus birth. Although it may seem a little unfamiliar and curious, it is a method of birthing that is worth understanding more about before passing judgement. Find out some more useful information on the lotus birth here.
What is it?
As briefly mentioned earlier, a lotus birth is when the umbilical cord is not cut immediately. Rather, the baby remains attached the placenta until nature decides that it is time to drop off. In most cases, this takes 3 to 10 days, and then the umbilical cord comes away from the placenta as it would when it is cut.
The main perspective of this is that these days after birth, when the baby is still attached to the placenta, are seen as something more of a transition. The viewpoint is that it is more of a gradual release from the attachment to mum’s body, through the placenta, rather than a seemingly ‘harsh’ unbinding.
Where did it originate?
It is hard to say that the lotus birth originated from a specific country or culture, but rather it is more of a viewpoint about the connection between mum and baby. There are many cultures that hold the placenta in high esteem, such as the Maori people of New Zealand and the Hmong of Laos who have certain rituals attached the removal of the placenta.
The lotus birth arguably came about in 1974 when Clair Lotus Day, living in California during her pregnancy, started questioning the practice of cutting the umbilical cord the way we do. She found an obstetrician who was willing to go down an alternative pathway with her on this, and her some Trimuriti was taken home still attached to his placenta.
In Australia, this practice was introduced by Shivam Rachana who is a strong advocate of this practice. The main argument for it is that it is a more gentle release into the world and allows nature to run its course with the umbilical cord and placenta connection.
Are there any risks?
More of a social concern than a risk, many mums who have opted for having a lotus birth have found some kind of social isolation. Rather than everyone wanting to cuddle and pass their newborn around, there has been some hesitation to hold the baby with its organ still attached. Whether or not this is a risk or a blessing is up to the individual mum to decide!
What are the benefits?
Lotus birth honours what is called the third stage of birth. It is a logical extension of the time in the womb and the childbirth process. It takes into consideration the nutritious benefits of the placenta and some argue that it keeps the baby healthier because of this.
A lotus birth can be performed in a hospital, at home, or even through a water birth or C-section. It is more about enhancing the connection of mother to baby and baby to self by retaining the umbilical cord, more than anything else.
What do the experts say?
Of course, there are many experts who are skeptical about the point and purpose of a lotus birth. Hospitals and medical professionals tend to say that the placenta has no purpose outside of the womb, as it stops carrying blood to the baby. Those in favour of a lotus birth believe it makes the transition to life outside the womb more gentle.
However, since the placenta essentially becomes a dead and decaying organ once outside the womb, there is a sense of risk in keeping it so close to a newborn baby. The main thing is that is can have bacterial tissue as the placenta starts to decay which can have the potential to infect the newborn.
It is a very unique and interesting practice that has merit and appeal to many. As long as the placenta is kept covered and clean outside the womb, the chance of infection is lessened. If it is something that inspires or draws your attention, having a lotus birth is worth discussing with your GP throughout prenatal appointments.
While not everyone is in favour of this practice and there might be some odd stares from society, giving birth and becoming a mum is such a personal choice. If a lotus birth feels right and there are no immediate health risks or concerns, it should be something you engage with and follow your heart on.