Lotus birth: the wackiest childbirth practice ever

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Pondering strange practices associated with childbirth, many people imagine that they are the product of third world cultures. While it is true that third world cultures have unusual and superstitious childbirth practices, the most bizarre and the most disgusting almost always come from first world countries. No one in the third world devised the spectacular lie that childbirth is “orgasmic;” and women in the third world did not make up the practice of waterbirth and pretend that delivering a baby into fecally contaminated water provides a good start in life. For the winner of wackiest (and most disgusting) childbirth practice ever, though, I’d nominate another stunt made up by first world women: lotus birth.

Louts birth is the decision to leave the placenta attached to the baby for several days until it rots off. It is a bizarre practice with no medical benefit and considerable risk, particularly the risk of massive infection. I’m not making this up. According to Lotus Fertility.com (“Serving your Inner Midwife”):

The baby is born and remains attached to its cord while the placenta is birthed. The baby’s placenta-cord is kept in-situ with the baby, gently wrapped in cloth or kept in an uncovered bowl near the mother, and the cord is sometimes wrapped in silk ribbon up to the baby’s belly. The cord quickly dries and shrinks in diameter, similar to sinew, and detaches often by the 3rd Postpartum day (but up to a week in certain humid indoor air conditions) leaving a perfect navel.

How is this accomplished?

…[T]he placenta is placed in a special bowl or wrapped in a ceremonial cloth (it is helpful to rinse it first, and remove clots)… Sea salt is also applied generously on both sides to aid drying and minimize scent. This small pillow and its cord are easily kept with the baby, and some women even use the Lotus pillow as an elbow prop during nursing…

In other words, in order to minimize the smell of rotting, the placenta is salted like a piece of dried meat. And as a bonus, you can use the rotting placenta as an elbow prop!

Why would anyone engage in such a bizarre and potential dangerous practice? Here’s the ostensible reason:

The practice … [is] called “Lotus Birth”, connecting the esteem held in the east for the Lotus to the esteem held for the intact baby as a holy child … Ahimsa, (non-violence in action and thought within one’s self and towards others) … is from the writings and leadership by Gandhi … and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights inspired marches followed soon after. Approaching birth options with Ahimsa in mind is something that can create a tremendous liberation of creative energies, freeing the potential of birth & early parenting to be a peaceful experience for the human family at large…

What’s the real reason behind lotus birth? Homebirth and other fringe birth advocates are engaged in a battle of oneupsmanship, and the woman with the most bizarre (and often the most dangerous) birth practices wins.

So, for example:

A says, “I had natural childbirth”
and B says, “Oh, yeah, well I had PAINLESS childbirth”
and C says, “Well, ladies, I can top that. I had an ORGASM during childbirth!”

and:

A says, “I had my baby in a birth center”
and B says, “Oh, yeah, well I had my baby at HOME”
and C says, “Well, ladies, I can top that. I had my baby at home BY MYSELF!”

now:

A says, “My partner cut the cord”
and B says, “Oh, yeah, well we waited until the cord stopped pulsating and then cut the cord”
and C says, “Well, ladies, I can top that. We didn’t cut the cord AT ALL and just waited for it to rot off!”

On this point I agree with homebirth and other fringe birth advocates. If the goal is to claim the wackiest childbirth practice, lotus birth wins: treat your baby like a “flower” and let the dead parts rot off.

This piece first appeared in May 2009.

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  • Mick

    I’m not an advocate of Lotus Birth but wow… there are some twisted people out there. Lots of angry ones too. What ever happened to live and let live? If people want to do something that is of no consequence to you then why the need cast judgement? Alas nowadays everyone has an opinion on everything which is invariably espoused in public. There’s enough hatred and anger doing the rounds prople – do us all a favour and think before you next give someone a serve….

    • The Bofa, Being of the Sofa

      What ever happened to live and let live?

      I agree.

      So tell those people who are selling this nonsense of “Lotus birth” to stop selling their crap!

      You think Dr Amy is just going after these people because they are whacky? No, it’s because they peddle their idiocy to others.

      Live and let live. Tell that to those whole tell women that this Lotus birth crap is important.

      • African RockFish

        “Live And Let Live” is okay until it starts endangering defenseless newborns.

  • Cici

    A midwife in this area did one of these lotus births for her patient and the baby bleed to death through the umbilical cord into the placenta. Apparently the umbilical vessels weren’t totally collapsed by the time the placenta delivered and the blood just siphoned from the baby into the placenta. The placenta is very vascular and acted like a sponge soaking up all the blood so no one was aware of this slow hemorrhage taking place and over a few hours the baby just bled to death. What a needless tragedy.

    • Young CC Prof

      Wow. How awful.

  • Kait

    It doesn’t rot off, for starters. Lets be accurate, at the very least. It actually dries up completely and either breaks or pulls off, usually around day 3. There is no rotting of the cord at all, and if the placenta is taken care of properly, it does not rot either.

    • Mer

      The fact that it needs to be taken care of means that it is indeed dead and rotting. It may not be fully rotten but it’s working on getting there. Did you know that in some areas of Africa (sorry I can’t be more specific, I can’t remember where my OB said she was stationed) some babies die from contamination of the umbilical cord? Granted its from the dirt getting put on it, but really not that different from keeping a decomposing organ attached to the baby. An organ that is not sterile and no longer in a sterile environment. Not really something I’d take a chance on with a newborn.

  • Danny Wade

    Wackiest practice ever? Dear doctor, have you never heard of dolphin-assisted childbirth?

  • It’s about the children

    In Bali, children are often hit by buses to avoid a cow in the street, some children have fingers cut off so they can get more money begging in the streets. That is barbaric.

    Bali is a horrendous example to use for the health, wealth and well being of children.

  • jenn

    Lotus Birthing enables the baby to get everything they could possibly get from the one thing that has been providing them life for the past 10 months in the womb. Now if you want to get on something how about the practice of immediately cutting the cord to CLEAR A ROOM…..are you kidding….we are not cattle in a god damn milking house we are people GIVING BIRTH…….we are not to be rushed in and out for YOUR convenience….I say all obs can take their speculum and shove it

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Really? What does the baby get from the rotting placenta?

      • CSM

        Hormones, obviously. Jeez, Dr. Amy. Oh, and residual blood. Or something.

      • DivinityWithin

        The placenta does not rot. The idea is to preserve it in a way to where it doesn’t rot, otherwise lotus birth would actually be a dangerous practice.
        …and if you want to hold your position in thinking the placenta does rot, consider beef jerky. If you don’t take proper measurements to preserve it, then it will rot. However, I think everyone can agree that jerky is not a rotten piece of meat. In the same manner, a placenta, if preserved, will not end up a rotten piece of meat.
        People need to be informed on both sides of a story before throwing out ignorant questions such as this.

        • Nick Sanders

          I still wouldn’t want a slab of jerky connected directly to my bloodstream.

        • Martin Fike II

          You realise you’re spouting nonsense to an MD whose specialisation is childbirth, right?

    • Cascaritas

      The placenta has to take from the mother to provide to the child. How is it going to keep providing if it isn’t attached to the mother anymore?

    • Captain Obvious

      If the umbilical cord thromboses off in utero, the baby dies. When the umbilical cord thromboses off in the form of a lotus birth after birth, what are you expecting to be passed to the baby?

  • what I would really like to know is.. If these lotus birth , natural child birth, people are giving a GOD DAMN about the child?? Childbirth sucks , its painful, it can be very frustrating and a myriad of other emotions, It has always been that way, since the dawn of time. The interventions are there to make sure that the BABY is OK. These people areignorent. Childbirth is not a pissing contest!! Real parents who love thier child are concerned about the child not themselves. This is a form of Child abuse and should be considered as such. But I guess since Abortion is legal, neglecting your at term baby is OK too. Its all about the woman!! Grow up and be a responsible parent!!

    • Spirit in Human Form

      Obviously, taking the time to care for a child with the placenta still attached IS caring for the child and not a selfish personal “pissing contest” for the parents. Just because this article has a hypothetical conversation between three mothers talking about birthing practices doesn’t mean this scenario actually happened…that is nothing more than a fabricated and opinionated story from an ignorant writer who thinks nothing more about this practice than “disgusting.” This is a practice of LOVE, not abuse. And just for the record, would you consider beef jerky a piece of rotten meat? Or has it been dried properly in a way that prevents rot and thus allows for the consumption of that meat? The placenta is preserved, or embalmed, and isn’t a “rotten piece of meat.” This article is nothing more than an incorrect and opinionated bash on a subject the author really has no knowledge of.

  • ha ha no page number because there isnt one!!

    • Talialucky Day

      I am truly shocked, to find a website such as this I have never read so much ignorance. My mother was Claire Lotus DAY she is the true creator of the Lotus birth, first of all if you’re going to talk about something and act like you’re educated, shouldn’t she read the true and real work of the lotus birth, yes if this was work of the true Lotus birth I would find this wrong, but the way you women are going about this is completely distasteful, are any of you women educated, I find that you all talk and swear like you have a second grade education is that, do you kiss your children with that filthy mouth, of course this message is going out to that woman said childbirth sucks, no it is a miracle of life and I’m sure you agree, we should have our children on our back and because your doctor is late for dinner you should have a C-section, ladies get your facts straight before you want to talk down on somebody else’s life work, proper etiquette would be nice to, we are here in this world to love and understand each other, not put fear and loathe and hate on things you do not understand nor have you took the time to find out what the true work of the lotus birth is. I felt bad for anyone that has not felt the grace of life as you celebrate your child into this world, God bless you all, as above so below , prosper like a growing flower as we grow every day until the day, we step into our new life
      peace and love your mind is a terrible thing to waste fill it with knowledge not hate and ignorance bless you all,

      • Have you considered that if you’re going to be pooh-poohing the education level of others, you may wish to write in proper English with proper grammar? One long run-on sentence that lacks any proper capitalization does not make you come across as reasonable or well-educated.

        • Sullivan ThePoop

          And the hysterics makes her seem so mature.

      • Captain Obvious

        What was that? Criticize, criticize, criticize, but god bless you all?

  • Starling, your name is like a new ager weirdo name to begin with, you dont know shit from Shinola about medicine or obstetrics. People like you make me want to barf, really, your ignorence in deafening. Go to a farm and deliver kittens or something!!

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  • VeritasLiberat

    i’m even doubting the bit about the chimps at this point. Can’t find any Goodall quotes about chimps leaving the placenta on. AFAIK they eat it.

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  • You know as well as I that those in the “scientific community” such as yourself are not compelled to research this issue – you have already made your judgement. You claim that umbilical non-severance risks infection, but so does cutting the cord, WITHOUT the benefits of a less stressful experience for the baby.
    Despite the wealth of anecdotal and traditional evidence, experiences, and the gut instinct of women who wish to practice non-violent birth, you maintain a feeling of superiority because this practice is “disgusting.” Do you also scrub the vernix off right away?
    My point remains the same – your ideas of childbirth are disempowering to mothers, often violent for newborns, and simply lucrative for you.

    • VeritasLiberat

      I’d actually like to see some evidence that this is a traditional pracice in Bali. All the sources I can find say that the traditional Balinese practice is to wrap the placenta in a clot, place it in a coconut shell, and bury it by the door to the house, on the right or left side depending on the gender of the child. This ceremony is done the same day the baby is born, so I would assume they sever the cord in some fashion.

      • VeritasLiberat

        cloth, not clot…

        • VeritasLiberat

          In fact lotus birth was invented in 1974 by a woman named Clair Lotus Day. So not a Balinese practice at all.

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