Many women feel that childbirth has lost its emotional and spiritual meaning. So they look for options like birth lotus. However, what transformed childbirth into an extremely medicalized, methodical and controlled hospital procedure was the desire to reduce the mortality (death) and morbidity (illness) of mothers and babies. Proper care of mothers and babies is a priority of the World Health Organization (WHO). By applying health interventions based on scientific evidence, it was possible to reduce the approximate global risk of maternal death throughout life, from 1 death in 73 women to 1 in 180.
That is why it is essential that parents are informed when deciding how they want to bring their child into the world. This includes non-evidence-based practices such as childbirth lotus.
What is the lotus birth?
The birth lotus consists in not cutting the umbilical cord after the child is born. The baby will remain attached to the umbilical cord and placenta until it detaches spontaneously, which occurs between the third and tenth day after birth. The placenta is washed first to remove any blood debris. It is then carefully wrapped in an absorbent material, such as a diaper. Finally, it is smeared with salt and aromatic herbs to regulate its humidity and avoid bad smells.
What is the origin of this practice?
The birth lotus is named after Clair Lotus Day, who in 1974 observed that newborn chimpanzees were not separated from the placenta, but this occurred naturally. This made her question whether what was done during delivery care was the best.
What are the umbilical cord and placenta for?
Without the placenta, the pregnancy could not occur or be maintained, since it acts as a barrier, preventing the maternal immune system from attacking the baby as if it were a foreign body. On the other hand, oxygen and all the nutrients that the baby needs for its development come from the mother through the placenta and the umbilical cord. Now once it is born, this will be able to get oxygen to the blood through their own lungs.
What benefits are attributed to the lotus birth?
The first thing that is expected to be obtained with the birth lotus is to prevent the child from developing anemia, taking into account that the passage of blood from the placenta will not be interrupted. It is also presumed that since the umbilical cord is not cut, there is no risk of infection. It must be made very clear that all these are hypotheses. There is no scientific evidence to support them.
Why do some families choose birth lotus?
However, the main reason mothers and fathers choose birth lotus it is none of the above. They do it because they see it as an alternative that tries to clothe at the time of delivery with a spiritual meaning.
From the perspective of birth lotus the placenta is a sacred organ, symbol of life, fertility and unbreakable bond between mother and child. This practice vindicates the right of the mother and the newborn to choose the conditions of birth.
What impact is it believed to have on the baby’s well-being?
From the perspective of birth lotus, the umbilical cord and the placenta form a unit with the newborn. And he must decide when he is ready to part. Preserving the placenta and umbilical cord is believed to avoid subjecting the baby to the trauma of abruptly separating it from its mother and the organ that protected it during pregnancy. Similarly, as it is difficult to mobilize the child while it is still attached to the placenta, parents state that they spend more time with the baby.
What are the risks of lotus birth?
Right now we might be wondering why if choosing birth lotus It sounds so good, it’s not always done that way. As mentioned, there is no scientific evidence in favor of a safe and beneficial practice.
So the birth lotus It is a practice that is considered risky and is discouraged. As long as there is no solid evidence in favor and there are reports of cases in which it posed a danger to newborns, it is not ethical or feasible to recommend it. Contrary to what is expected, that by not cutting the cord there is no risk of infection for the baby, the decomposing placenta is thought to become a source of bacteria. There are reported cases of omphalitis (infection of the navel) and sepsis (infection of the blood).
An uncontrolled and permanent flow of blood from the placenta can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), polycythemia (too many red blood cells causing an increase in the viscosity of the blood) and thrombosis.
“Specialized care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of pregnant women and newborns”
– World Health Organization –
So what is recommended?
When it comes to deciding under what circumstances we want our child to be born, the following must be borne in mind:
- Inform us using the appropriate sources. It is always highly advisable to raise all our doubts and concerns with a trusted doctor.
- The route of delivery (vaginal or cesarean section) will depend on our health history, the way the pregnancy develops and the well-being of the baby. Making the decision will be easier if the control of the pregnancy was judicious and all the indicated tests were carried out.
- With regards to having the baby at home or in the hospital, this should be considered if the pregnancy is low risk. That is, if there is no data that indicates that the mother or child is in danger.
- Easy access to a health center if required is a key point. The operation of the health network is not the same in all countries and up to 40% of pregnancies considered low risk can become complicated at the time of delivery.
Active management of labor
Postpartum hemorrhage remains the most common cause of maternal death. Active management of the delivery or third phase of labor is a vital intervention to avoid this complication.
When we talk about active management, we are essentially referring to 3 behaviors:
- Use a medicine that helps the uterus to contract. The drug par excellence is oxytocin. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it is the primary intervention.
- The controlled traction cord.
- The uterine massage.
Delayed clamping of the umbilical cord
The WHO also recommends delayed cord clamping, which consists of not clamping or cutting the cord immediately, but waiting at least 1 minute after the baby is born. Except for neonates who are born poorly and require respiratory assistance, delayed cord clamping prevents anemia and other serious diseases that can affect the infant.
Respectful maternity care
The recommendations of international organizations for the care of pregnancy and childbirth are aimed at dignified and respectful treatment of the mother, protecting her privacy, confidentiality and integrity. The objective is not only to avoid maternal morbidity and deaths, but to empower women and claim their rights. This process begins before conception and continues after the baby is born.
After the birth, when the mother is well and the baby is born without complications, skin-to-skin contact of both should be preserved during the first hour to facilitate breastfeeding. The newborn will be placed on its mother’s abdomen, it will be dried well, and its breathing will be evaluated. Meanwhile, it is expected that the time of 1 to 3 minutes to clamp the cord is fulfilled. Later, the baby will be covered with a hat and a dry blanket.
Other routine care that should be given to the child should not be overlooked, but should be postponed until after this first hour when he will be in close contact with his mother.
The lotus birth is not recommended
You cannot ignore the fact that despite the absence of any scientific evidence to support the birth lotus, parents who have lived it consider it a positive experience that they would repeat. In part, this is because a human being’s feelings, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and spirituality are an essential part of life. Medical knowledge tends to focus on the biological and physical, neglecting other human needs.
But medical care doesn’t have to be synonymous with a cold, dehumanized, or traumatic delivery. There are ways to reconcile the holistic needs of mother, father, and child that pose no risk to either of them. As part of the preparation for childbirth, the characteristics of the care provided must be investigated and verified. The birth lotus it is not recommended, but there are humanization alternatives that many health centers apply.