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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > July/August 2018 > Lotus Birth

Lotus Birth

An alternative birth practice called lotus birth—not cutting the umbilical cord after delivery—is a poorly studied phenomenon with high risks and low benefits. It’s also not traditional; the fad dates back only to the 1970s.

Known in proponent circles as “lotus birth,” umbilical nonseverance is a practice in which the umbilical cord is not cut post-birth, leaving the baby attached to the placenta until the cord dries and eventually detaches from the navel—usually a period of three to ten days. Little information has been published on the safety or medical benefit of this practice. Those engaging in lotus birth often keep the placenta in a pouch or a bowl to dry, with salt and optional dried herbs and essentials oils to aid in the drying process and to mask the odor of the decomposing placenta. These supplies are sold in kits from local sellers or through online shops such as Etsy, though lotus birthers also share tips on how to prepare concoctions at home. Some proponents distinguish between “full” and “short term” lotus births, in which the cord is cut four to forty-eight hours following birth.

A typical lotus birth protocol proceeds as follows:

• When the baby is born, leave the umbilical cord intact. If the cord is around the baby’s neck, simply lift it over.

• Wait for the natural delivery of the placenta. Do not use oxytocin, as this forces too much too soon into the infant and compromises the placenta delivery.

• When the placenta delivers, place it into a receiving bowl beside the mother.

• Wait for full transfusion of the umbilical blood into the baby before handling the placenta.

• Gently wash the placenta with warm water and pat dry.

• Place the placenta into a sieve or colander for 24hrs to allow drainage.

• Wrap the placenta in absorbent material, a nappy or cloth and put in into a placenta bag. The covering is changed daily or more often if seepage occurs. Alternatively, the placenta may be laid on a bed of sea salt (which is changed daily) and liberally covered with salt.

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