There are a lot of terms that get thrown about in the wonderful world of childbirth. Some are familiar, some maybe not so much. And lotus birth might be one of them.
Lotus birth is a term to used to describe keeping the placenta attached to your baby long after birth. You may have heard of delayed cord clamping but this is taking it to the extreme.
If you want a lotus birth, the umbilical cord will not be cut. Instead, you go home with your baby still attached to both the umbilical cord and placenta and wait until it falls off.
Why opt for a lotus birth?
Those who promote lotus births believe that keeping the placenta attached for as long as possible has health benefits for your baby. The theory is that they will gain a stronger immune system and have more oxygen and blood volume. It’s also proposed that this is the more natural way of separating your little one from the placenta.
Whilst medical professionals know that delayed cord clamping assists in promoting blood volume, it’s not yet known if lotus births have any additional benefits.
In some cultures, the placenta is also considered very sacred and there are spiritual reasons for taking it home.
What happens with the placenta?
Basically, once the placenta detaches from the wall of your uterus, circulation of blood ceases and it becomes dead tissue.
From here there are a few different methods. We should be clear straight away though that none of these are scientifically tested though. If you’re considering a lotus birth, you need to do both your own research and consult with your health care team.
Those who opt for a lotus birth, usually place the placenta in a small bag. Other individuals prefer to leave the placenta in the open air, storing it in a bowl, or on a piece of absorbent cloth.
The placenta is usually washed, and will sometimes have herbs or salt placed on it. This is to reduce odour and absorb some of the residual moisture.
How do I look after my baby after a lotus birth?
Care for your newborn remains much the same, except you’ll also be caring for their placenta. Generally speaking, most women will remain at home with their baby until the cord falls off.
You’ll need to be extra careful handling your baby, making sure you don’t pull too roughly on the umbilical cord. They’ll also need to be dressed in open clothes that allow room for their umbilical cord.
It’s extra important that you regularly inspect both the cord and placenta. Keep an eye out for infection, and any tears in the umbilical cord.
How does it come off?
As the tissue slowly degrades, the umbilical cord will dry and fall off naturally. Much the same way as the stump of your bub’s umbilical cord falls off after being clamped.
The process usually takes around three to ten days.
If the cord isn’t coming off of its own accord, or you decide you wish to have the placenta removed earlier than planned, you must consult with a doctor or midwife. Do not try and cut the cord yourself!
Are there any risks?
In short, yes. The chief concern with lotus births is the risk of infection. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom warn strongly against the practice.
As mentioned earlier, the placenta is now dead and decaying, making it a prime breeding ground for bacteria. If the placenta becomes infected, this could then easily spread to your baby.
There’s also an increased risk of jaundice for your little one. This is due to the abnormally high amount of red blood cells your baby’s body would receive from being attached to the placenta for so long after birth.
Can I have a lotus birth in Australia?
Yes, but you’ll possibly have to hunt around for a health care provider.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have taken a very similar line to their English and American colleagues. At this stage, the practice of lotus birthing is generally not recommended or supported in a hospital environment.
That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a hospital delivery, more that you’ll have to discuss your wishes early on so that plans can be made. You may also find that some doctors will refuse the process altogether, so prepare yourself, there might be a bit of shopping around involved.
Lotus births in Australia are mainly linked to home births. If you’re open to this concept, it may be worthwhile researching doulas and midwives who are more receptive to the process.
The takeaway from all of this is that, if you strongly believe a lotus birth is for you and your family, then you’re well within your rights to push for it. Just make sure you have a good supportive healthcare team behind you.
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