Lotus births might seem like all the rage in 2018, but how safe is the practice? The term lotus birth is used to describe a birth in which the umbilical cord and placenta are not removed post-birth. Instead, the placenta is stored in a bowl of herbs to mask the smell of decomposition, and the baby finally detaches from its placenta when the umbilical cord naturally rots and falls off. If it sounds risky to you, that's because it actually might be. A recent paper in the journal Clinical Pediatrics details the case of a newborn who contracted a serious heart infection after having a lotus birth.
The paper details the case of a 20-hour-old infant who was brought to the emergency room with labored breathing.
The baby, who had been born via home water birth, was still attached to his placenta, which the paper refers to as umbilical cord nonseverance (UCN). The paper states that the decomposing cord and placenta looked "unremarkable," but when doctors ran tests, they found that the baby's blood culture showed signs of a staph infection.
The baby's umbilical cord was then cut, and he was started on a central line of continuous antibiotics.
A second blood culture was ordered, which showed the presence of Staphylococcus lugdunensis. Dr. Amy Tuteur, an obstetrician gynecologist who runs the popular blog The Skeptical OB, explained in a post about the case that Staphylococcus lugdunensis is "a common skin bacteria that can gain access to the baby’s bloodstream through a skin infection (which this baby did not have) … or through direct communication of a rotting placenta with a baby’s circulation."
Doctors performed an echocardiogram, which showed signs of the infection in the baby's heart.
Despite complications such as this one, proponents of lotus birth believe that it has benefits for newborn babies.
The natural-birthing site Mama Natural states that a lotus birth provides more oxygenated blood to the baby, softens the newborn's transition from the womb to the outside world, helps with the mom's postpartum healing and carries less risk of infection because there's "no open wound" from cutting the umbilical cord.
But that's not what some experts say.
Although the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology does recommend delayed cord clamping, which is the practice of waiting 30 seconds up to a few minutes post-birth to cut the cord so the blood has time to circulate, they do not advocate for lotus births. In 2008, the U.K.'s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also issued a warning about the practice, noting, "If left for a period of time after the birth, there is a risk of infection in the placenta which can consequently spread to the baby. The placenta is particularly prone to infection as it contains blood. At the post-delivery stage, it has no circulation and is essentially dead tissue.”
This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.