Lotus birth leaves a newborn critically ill with a heart infection

Newborn baby in hospital

A new paper in Clinical Pediatrics, Umbilical Cord Nonseverance and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes, reports on babies harmed by the bizarre practice of lotus birth.

Lotus birth is the latest fad in the world of birth performance art.

It used to be that women got pregnant with the intention of having a baby. In 2018, among a certain segment of privileged, white natural childbirth advocates, the performance is the point. For example, freebirth, childbirth without medical assistance of any kind, is a stunt. As such, the baby is merely a prop and an expendable prop at that. According to freebirther Desirea Miller:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Lotus birth is a bizarre practice with no medical benefit and considerable risk, particularly the risk of massive infection. [/pullquote]

A live baby is usually the goal. Not everybody has that same goal but if that’s your goal, there’s no shame in going [to the hospital] to get checked.

Lotus birth is another fringe stunt beloved of those who think bragging rights are more important than a healthy baby. It is the decision to leave the placenta attached to the baby for several days until it rots off. It’s an affectation with no medical benefit and considerable risk, particularly the risk of massive infection.

According to Lotus Fertility.com (“Serving your Inner Midwife”):

…[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…

Why would anyone leave a dead chunk of meat attached to her baby?

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…

In other words, lotus birth is New Age nonsense … but it is also potentially deadly to the baby. As the authors of the new scientific paper explain:

Because of the potential for decomposing placental tissue to become a nidus for infection, and in the absence of medical evidence describing a benefit of this practice, the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has issued a statement advising women about the lack of evidence to support UCNS as a safe procedure. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist and the American Academy of Pediatrics do not recommend UCNS. One existing case report has linked UCNS with persistent neonatal hepatitis. Another has linked UCNS to a case of Staphylococcus epidermidis neonatal sepsis.

The authors describe a baby rendered critically ill by a heart infection apparently contracted from the decomposing placenta:

A 20-hour-old male infant with UCNS was brought to the emergency department by his parents for labored breathing. The parents reported that the infant was born at home via water birth with spontaneous, prolonged rupture of membranes (>18 hours). No resuscitation was required at birth…

He was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) due to concern for sepsis. Ampicillin and gentamicin were started empirically. At 30 hours after admission, the blood culture was positive for coagulase-negative Staphylococcus; the umbilical cord was then cut, and central lines were placed for continued antibiotic therapy… The second blood culture grew Staphylococcus lugdunensis

The infection was so serious that the bacteria was growing in the baby’s blood. S. 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.

Even more ominous:

An echocardiogram (ECG) was ordered on hospital day 4 because of the association of S lugdunensis with endocarditis. The ECG revealed tricuspid valve leaflet thickening and presence of a vegetation [colony of bacteria] …

It took 6 weeks of hospitalization for IV antibiotics to cure the heart infection. Fortunately the baby appears to have escaped permanent damage to his heart valve and the associated disability.

In trying to recapitulate birth in nature, the mother had a homebirth. This “natural” birth led to the baby experiencing nearly every possible serious medical intervention in a 6 week hospital stay.

As the authors of the paper note:

Ironically, families seeking a more natural birth option may end up getting a more invasive experience than a family choosing standard delivery and newborn care.

The ultimate irony is that there is nothing natural about lotus birth. There are no primates, nor human cultures in which the placenta is left attached to a newborn. Lotus birth is a thoroughly modern affectation, one with potentially deadly consequences.