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Lotus birth is the practice of giving birth without clamping or cutting the umbilical cord, leaving it and the placenta attached to the baby. After several days, the cord will dry and detach on its own.

Supporters of lotus births claim several physical, mental, and spiritual benefits to the practice.

Lotus Birth Process

When following the full lotus birth process, the umbilical cord and attached placenta are not cut or clamped. Immediately after birth, the baby remains as close to the mother as possible, depending on the length of the cord.

Once the mother births the placenta, caregivers place it in a bowl or wrap it in toweling and allow for at least an hour of mother-child bonding. Caregivers then clean and dry the cord and apply preservatives. Within three to 15 days, the umbilical cord will dry and detach from the baby.

he first moments of mother and newborn after childbirth kipgodi / Getty Images
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Delayed Cord Clamping and Cutting

The optimal time for cord clamping has been the subject of debate for many years. Due to recent research, most health groups recommend waiting one to three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord.

Doing so lowers the risk of iron deficiency and intraventricular hemorrhage, while also improving birth weight and hemoglobin concentrations. However, the chances of jaundice and polycythemia moderately increase.

Close-up doctor obstetrician nurse cutting umbilical cord with medical scissors to newborn infant baby.
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Lotus Birth vs. Delayed Cord Clamping

Many proponents of lotus births claim that the benefits of delayed cord clamping also apply to lotus births. However, due to the lack of research on lotus births, it is unclear if these claims are true.

It's possible waiting a few minutes before clamping may provide all of the post-birth benefits and the additional attachment time does nothing more.

Newborn baby, feet and umbilical cord Pixelistanbul / Getty Images
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The Possible Benefits

One of the oldest claims surrounding lotus births stems from the early American pioneers, who believed not removing the umbilical cord prevented open wound infections. Some people also view lotus births as less invasive for the baby.

Beyond the purely physical aspects, many parents feel that the immediate bonding between mother and child provides mental health benefits. Additionally, both the umbilical cord and placenta are important in many religions, so lotus births may hold spiritual importance to certain families.

A newborn and his mother at maternity ward Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images
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The Evidence Behind the Claims

The placenta and umbilical cord receive their blood supply from the mother and have no nerve connections. Clamping causes no damage or pain to the baby. While infections like omphalitis can occur due to cord clamping, they are extremely rare.

The immediate bonding between mother and newborn does provide comfort to families, leading to many doctors adopting this aspect during various delivery methods.

woman holding newborn baby in hospital bed Ariel Skelley / Getty Images
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Potential Risks

Evidence shows lotus births carry significant risks. Because the umbilical cord is dead tissue with its own blood supply, leaving it attached could lead to widespread infections. Studies have found increased rates of omphalitis and bacteremia after the umbilical cord was left attached.

In addition, there have been cases of infant-to-placenta hemorrhage, causing the newborns to lose large amounts of blood into the placenta and go into hypovolemic shock.

mother holding sleeping baby paulaphoto / Getty Images
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When to Seek Immediate Medical Care

Immediately seek medical care if a newborn has any of the following:

  • Warmth, swelling, or redness around the umbilical area
  • A temperature over 100.4 degrees F
  • Is refusing to feed or is feeding less than six to eight times in the first two days
  • Is sleeping more than is typical
measuring baby's temperature jjustas / Getty Images
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Taking Care of the Placenta

Lotus births require additional care, due to the constantly present umbilical cord and placenta. Keep the placenta as close to the child as possible to avoid unnecessary pulling on the cord. Take extra precautions when lifting, feeding, or holding the baby.

Clothes and blankets should be loose and open at the front. No evidence clarifies the benefits of using a placenta bag versus leaving the placenta open to the air.

Embryo model Sinhyu / Getty Images
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Removing the Cord

Under typical circumstances, the umbilical cord will detach on its own within three to 15 days. However, the increased care and potential for trouble often lead to parents deciding to remove the cord. It is of immense importance that a medical professional performs this removal in an official setting. Attempting to remove the cord at home can lead to significant trauma and greater risk of infection.

Cleaning the navel of newborn Socha / Getty Images
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Alternatives

Many medical experts recommend practicing delayed cord clamping rather than lotus births; they are present to perform neonatal care next to the mother while parent and baby experience immediate bonding. This practice provides all of the evidence-based benefits while minimizing the risk.

Immediate neonatal care with the cord intact may require adjusting of a hospital’s typical practice, so discuss this with the doctors before delivery.

Female nurse with premature born baby SerrNovik / Getty Images

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.