Lotus birth

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Extended-delayed cord severance care: intact umbilicus one hour postpartum. 2006

Lotus birth (or umbilical nonseverance) is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after childbirth so that the baby is left attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus, usually a few days after birth.[1]

There is no proof either way about whether they are medically beneficial for newborns or not.[2] "No research exists on lotus birth." [3] The practice is mainly seen as being a spiritual procedure rather than one of significant in medicine.[4]


Although recently arisen as an alternative birth phenomenon in the clinical West, super-delayed (1+ hours post-birth) umbilical severance is common in home births, and umbilical nonseverance have been recorded in a number of cultures including that of the Balinese [5] and of some aboriginal peoples such as the !Kung.

Early American pioneers, in written diaries and letters, reported practicing nonseverance of the umbilicus as a preventative measure to protect the infant from an open wound infection.[6]

Modern practice[edit]

In the 1980s, yoga practitioners brought the idea to the United States and Australia, with the "lotus birth moniker, creating a link between the preciousness of the placenta and the high esteem in which the lotus is held in the Hindu and Buddhist faiths".[7] Yoga master and midwife Jeannine Parvati Baker being the main advocate for the practice in the United States.[8]

Jeannine Parvati Baker, yoga master.

The practice spread to Australia by a midwife, Shivam Rachana, founder of the International College of Spiritual Midwifery and author of the book Lotus Birth.[9]

In the full lotus birth clinical protocol, the umbilical cord which is attached to the baby's navel and placenta, is not clamped nor cut, and the baby is immediately placed on the mother's belly/chest (depending on the length of the cord) or kept in close proximity to the mother in cases when medically necessary procedures such as resuscitation may be needed. In lotus birth, after the placenta is born vaginally (often with the maternal informed choice for passive management of third stage allowing for natural detachment of the placenta within appropriate time allowed for it, with no hormonal injections such as oxytocin) or via cesarean section (the most common operating room procedure in the U.S.).[10]

Following birth, the placenta is simply put in a bowl or quickly wrapped in absorbent towelling and placed near the mother-baby caregivers step back to allow for undisturbed maternal-child bonding to occur as the primary event for an hour or more. It is only after this initial intense bonding period that the placenta is managed by rinsing, drying, applying preservatives, and positioning it in a way that allows for plentiful air circulation and proximity to the baby. After several days, the cord dries and detaches from the baby's belly, generally 3–10 days postpartum.[11][8]


Umbilical nonseverance, postpartum water immersion shortly after homebirth. 2005

Relation to nature[edit]

Significantly delayed cord cutting as well as nonseverance being found in birth anthropology along with the universality of reverence for the cord & placenta (as found in the Tree of Life beliefs of tribal cultures around the world and reported to the world by scholar & professor Joseph Campbell.

Primatologist Jane Goodall, who was the first person to conduct long-term studies of chimpanzees in the wild, reported that they did not chew or cut their offspring's cords, instead leaving the umbilicus intact, like many other monkeys.[12] Though other mammals may sever their offspring's cords, they only do so after initial maternal sensory reception, unwinding of the cord, massage/cleaning (through touch), and initiation of nursing [13] phase which has been observed to involve at least one hour, if left undisturbed.


Proponents of lotus births view the baby and the placenta as one on a cellular level, as they are from the same source egg & sperm conceptus. They also assert that the newborn and the placenta as existing within the same quantum field and thus influencing various expressions of quantum mechanics that influence health[14] involving transfers of energy & cellular information continuing to take place gradually from the tissue of the placenta to the baby during the drying process. As the placenta is a vital organ of the baby, composed of the same cells as the baby, and as it was formed by the sixth week of conception from these cells, lotus birth takes an integral approach to postpartum bonding. Given that the baby and placenta share cellular material and gestational molecular resonance,[15][16] lotus birth practitioners view the placenta with respect and care, and allow for the natural process of undisturbed bonding and the slow drying cord to provide a unique transitional period of mindfulness between birth and neonatal existence.

Mothers who choose lotus birth cite are assured of undisturbed bonding with their child and no unnecessary medical procedures to distract them, particularly during the first hour after birth, which is the most critical time for the establishment of exclusive bonding focus for breastfeeding and is neurologically affected by any interruptions.[17]



A graphic showing the relationship of a developing baby and the placenta.

Lotus births are an extremely rare practice in hospitals.[4] Full lotus birth is not a medical necessity in Western society, and its benefits have not been yet been proven, though lotus birth is a routine practice found in the culture of present-day Bali, a recently established practice in Australian hospitals (including for cases of prematurity and cesarean)[2] and is occasionally practiced in clinical birth centers and home births worldwide.

Once the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating after birth, transfer of physical substances is said to be complete by current medical standards. Several clinical studies have shown that delaying clamping the umbilical cord for a period not only allows more blood to be transferred but helps prevent anemia as well, though there "remains no consensus among scientists and clinicians on cord clamping and proper cord blood collection" according to Dr. Stephen Klasko, senior vice president of University of South Florida Health and dean of the University of South Florida College of Medicine.[18]

Though most Western medical scholars have never seen a natural clamping and cord detachment process and this is not taught in medical schools, some physicians have published on the topic, most notably Sarah Buckley MD, and Australian physician and Michel Odent MD, a French obstetrician. A potential benefit of lotus birth is that the risk of neonatal tetanus is eliminated.[19] According to former chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, U.K. Belinda Phipps, "When a baby is born, about a third of the baby's blood is still in his/her cord and placenta. With no good evidence to support it, it is accepted practice to accelerate the arrival of the placenta with an injection and clamp and cut the cord immediately, depriving the baby of this blood."[20]


We are aware that a number of women are choosing umbilical non-severance, known as lotus birth, and this is something we would discourage. ... If you wanted to pick an environment that encourages bacteria to grow you probably could not do better than to leave the placenta attached after birth. ... Soon after the baby is born there is no longer any circulation in the placenta, so it’s dead tissue and full of blood, making it the perfect culture medium for bacteria.

Pat O'Brien, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists[7]


The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has stated, "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," and the RCOG strongly recommends that any baby that undergoes lotus birthing be monitored closely for infection.[3]


The risk of the mother hemorrhaging during a lotus birth has been noted by Associate Professor Steve Robson of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.[9]


  1. ^ 1955-, Walsh, Denis, (2007-01-01). Evidence-based care for normal labour and birth : a guide for midwives. Routledge. ISBN 0415418909. OCLC 156908214. 
  2. ^ a b Rachana, Shivam (2000). Lotus Birth: Leaving the Umbilical Cord Intact. Greenwood. 
  3. ^ a b "RCOG statement on umbilical non-severance or "lotus birth"". Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  4. ^ a b Burns, Emily (Winter 2014). "More Than Clinical Waste? Placenta Rituals Among Australian Home-Birthing Women". The Journal of Perinatal Education. 23 (1): 41–49. 
  5. ^ see Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, pp. 252-252
  6. ^ Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750 to 1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986 pp.21-37
  7. ^ a b Carroll, Helen (3 October 2013). "Is this the craziest (and most reckless) birthing fad EVER?: In lotus birthing, babies can be left with their placenta attached for TEN days... and doctors are horrified". Daily Mail. 
  8. ^ a b Bindley, Katherine (12 April 2013). "Lotus Birth: Does Not Cutting The Umbilical Cord Benefit Baby?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 March 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Hansen, Jane (23 June 2013). "Risky new trend of lotus birth". The Sunday Telegraph. 
  10. ^ stats
  11. ^ Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening. Wilber, Patton, Leonard, Morelli. Integral Books, 2008. ISBN 1590304675
  12. ^ See In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall.
  13. ^ Human Birth: An Evolutionary Perspective. Wenda Trevathan PhD, Univ of New Mexco Press, 2011. ISBN 1412815029
  14. ^ The New Physics of Healing lecture, Harvard Medical School, Deepak Chopra MD, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 156455919X , Audio recording.
  15. ^ Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 22nd Edition ISBN 978-0-8036-2977-6
  16. ^ Placenta And Trophoblast: Methods And Protocols in Molecular Medicine. Hunt, Soares, Ed. Humana Press; 2006. ISBN 1588296083
  17. ^ Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices by Sarah Buckley MD & Midwife Ina May Gaskin, Celestial Arts Publishing, 2008 ISBN 1587613220
  18. ^ "USF Health News Archives  » USF researchers: Do we clamp the umbilical cord too soon?". hscweb3.hsc.usf.edu. Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  19. ^ Michel Odent, MD as quoted in the text Lotus Birth by Shivam Rachana, Greenwood Press, 2000 ISBN 0646406523
  20. ^ "Cutting cord too early puts babies at risk, NHS warned" by Denis Campbell. The Guardian Newspaper, London. 4/25/13

Further reading[edit]

  • Buckley MD., Sarah. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, Australia, 2006
  • Davies RN, Leap RN, McDonald. Examination of the Newborn & Neonatal Health: A Multidimensional Approach, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2008. ISBN 0-443-10339-9
  • Lim CPM, Robin. After the Baby's Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women, Ten Speed Press, U.S. 2001
  • Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, North Atlantic Books, U.S., 2001
  • Trevathan, Wenda. Human Birth: An Evolutionary Perspective, Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2011
  • World Health Organization (WHO). Care in normal birth: A practical guide, report of a technical working group, Geneva, Switzerland, 1997