Just over five years ago, I gave birth to my first child and opted not to cut the cord—and, subsequently, the attached placenta—and allow it to fall away naturally. Cord non-severance is otherwise referred to as a lotus birth, a process that felt so instinctual to me that nine months ago I also chose to birth my second baby in the same way. Baby number two was delivered in the birth pool in the presence of her dad and big brother, now five years old.
The benefits of lotus birth are the same physical benefits as delayed cord clamping including ensuring your baby receives the full 30–50 percent remainder of their blood supply, which continues pulsating through the cord from the placenta for around 3–10 minutes after birth, and finally receiving their vital stem cells. This results in decreased chance of developing anemia and also increases immunity to other potential diseases.
Often overlooked in lotus birth discussions, the emotional benefits feature just as prominently for mother and child when opting for a lotus birth—the physical connection between the baby and the placenta ensures that the after-birth is not hurried unnecessarily. In my first birth, with a 12-hour labor, the after-birth took 5 hours to deliver and an even longer 12 hours for the second birth, which was ironically a lot shorter duration of 4 hours labor. This extended period of literally remaining connected ensured I could bond successfully with both my babies without any interference or unnecessary weighing, bathing or medical tests.
For the second birth, we delayed the first bath until the placenta had fallen away, as the sticky white vernix acts as a moisturizer, protecting the newborn's delicate skin. Furthermore, during the six days it took for both of my baby's cords to naturally detach, I was able to respect my postnatal body's need to stay in, rest well and establish a successful breastfeeding relationship with my children.
Photograph by Adele Allen
My babies were very peaceful after birth and only let out one cry to indicate the first few breaths of air as the lungs transitioned to take over their role from the placenta.
When I watch videos of babies being born and having the cord clamped and cut, I feel sorrow that our medical system feels such an urgency to inflict unnecessary trauma to the newborn who often display an ear-piercing scream at the point of cutting the cord. My babies were very peaceful after birth and only let out one cry to indicate the first few breaths of air as the lungs transitioned to take over their role from the placenta.
I was not concerned about the cord being potentially wrapped around their neck as I am aware that the placenta continues pumping oxygen to the baby for at least five minutes after birth, giving plenty of time to gently unwrap a cord.
To keep the placenta smelling pleasant, we sprinkled it with a coating of rock salt and rose petals before wrapping in muslin cloths which were changed every few days. For easy transport, the placenta was then placed into a hand-held cool bag which kept everything clean and aerated.
Some obstetricians suggest that lotus births carry a risk of infection. This potential risk seems highly unlikely as the cord literally begins to dry up and shuts off the supply to the placenta as soon as the blood and stem cells have finished traveling through to the baby. The actual evidence of such infection occurring in lotus born babies is zero, unlike the many cases of infected cord stumps bought about by cutting the cord.
Five years down the line, with two lotus-born babies, I cannot say for sure whether having lotus births versus simple delayed cord clamping has made a difference to their quality of life. I guess this is something that could never be proven. My first child did not sleep well as a baby, while the second has slept exceptionally well. Both have very different personalities.
They do share a few commonalities—both have above average physical development and are very alert, and neither have any developmental issues. Overall, I can say that the lotus birth made for a much more relaxed birth experience and kept my babies safe and sound in my arms where they were allowed to experience the golden bonding hour of skin-to-skin contact without interruption.
And that will give my babies the best gift that cannot be severed: an unbreakable connection of love and security.
EDITOR'S NOTE: All thoughts and opinions expressed belong to the author and not mom.me.