is lotus birth?
Lotus birth is the practise of leaving the umbilical
cord uncut after a baby is born. The cord remains
connected to the placenta and the baby until it drops
off by itself at the navel, usually after 3-7 days.
This is not just the invention of a new age birthing ritual, there are many benefits
for mother and baby that some health professionals are just beginning to become
What is the placenta?
Placenta is a Latin word and means ‘flat cake’.
It is a multi-organ that grows from the same fertilized
egg and the same genetic material as the baby, hence
the placenta belongs to the baby not the mother. It
is fully functionable around 8 weeks of pregnancy
and the baby’s development depends completely
on its correct functioning. The placenta transfers
blood and nutrients to the baby and removes waste
products. It supports functions to the baby’s
lungs, liver, kidneys and gut.
The placenta has its own intelligence – it can
recognise many substances that are harmful to the baby
and acts as a protective barrier.
The placenta also produces hormones that help maintain
the pregnancy and prepare the mother’s breasts
Active management and early cord cutting
The umbilical cord is the baby’s lifeline to the
mother via the placenta.
In the medical model of care it is common practise to ‘actively
manage’ the third stage of labour, the period from
the birth of the baby until delivery of the placenta.
Active management means clamping the umbilical cord
and cutting it within minutes, sometimes seconds,
of the birth while the cord is still pulsing and the
placenta is still inside the uterus. At the same time
the mother receives an injection of Syntocinon, a
uterotonic drug. This causes the uterus to produce
strong contractions with the aim to separate the placenta
from the uterine wall. The contractions will clamp
off the uterine blood vessels and thereby stop bleeding.
Then the placenta is pulled out via controlled cord
This intervention is believed to reduce blood loss
and reduce the risk of haemorrhage. Some practitioners
use Syntometrine instead of Syntocinon. Syntometrine
can have side effects: Nausea, vomiting and high blood
Effects of early cord cutting
Through early cord cutting the baby is missing out on
getting up to 1/3 of its placental blood which is very
rich and contains hormones, enzymes, iron and stem cells.
If the baby doesn’t get all its blood, when its
organs are just beginning to work fully, it has to start
off depleted and the baby’s system has to produce
the missing amount right after birth.
By clamping a pulsing cord the baby is forced into a
state of panic. It has to breathe suddenly or it will
suffocate. This is a very painful experience for a baby
and can have long reaching effects.
Frederick Leboyer believes the way we breathe at birth
creates a pattern that will determine how we will breathe
for the rest of our life.
Early cutting has been linked to an increased likelihood of childhood
anaemia, allergies, asthma, digestive issues, adult colitis, lumbar and vertebral
issues, as well as low vitality and lethargy, a poor sense of empowerment,
low self esteem and low motivation in life.
Psychologically early cord cutting is a traumatic ending
to the physical connection with the mother and a sudden
loss of the baby’s source of nourishment. This
feeling can stay with a person throughout life and may
create issues around ‘not getting enough’ or ‘not
being able to support oneself’.
Leave well alone
In the midwifery model of care the third stage of labour
is guided by ‘leave well alone’. Mother and
baby are kept in a warm and peaceful environment to support
the break down of stress hormones and the production
of oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract,
which will expel the placenta, close off blood vessels
and stop the bleeding. In 9 out of 10 births there are
no complications in this natural process.
If the mother is tired she is given an energising drink,
like tea with honey or a juice and in due course she
is encouraged into an upright or squatting position so
the placenta can slide out with the help of gravity.
The midwife keeps a close watch on the amount of blood
loss and Syntocinon will be given only if needed. There
is no pulling on the cord as this can lead to complications
such as uterine prolapse.
In a natural third stage there is no rush. Oxygen is
still flowing to the baby through the blood in the cord.
Therefore it is not under immediate pressure to use its
lungs and start breathing for the first time.
By getting the full amount of placental blood the baby’s
liver, kidneys, heart, digestive system, skin and brain
will have an optimal start.
The immature liver and kidneys are supported by the placenta
in the removal of stress hormones or drugs that the mother
may have used during labour.
When the cord isn’t cut the baby naturally stays
with the mother and won’t be taken away for cleaning
and examination. Mother, father and baby can take time
for integration of the birthing experience and spend
time together as a new family.
Better bonding with oxytocin
In a natural third stage of labour mother and baby can
have the full benefit of the hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin not only causes the uterus to contract, it plays
a major role in bonding between mother and baby. The
hormone is produced by the primal brain and is also known
as the ‘love hormone’. In smaller doses than
at a birth it is also produced during lovemaking and
With oxytocin levels still high after birth mother and
baby will have a bonding experience with feelings of
love and pleasure. The way a baby bonds with the mother
after birth will influence its ability to love and relate
later in life.
Furthermore if it feels love and pleasure instead of
being overwhelmed, threatened in its survival, depleted
and separated from the mother the baby’s primary
imprint and first impression of the world will be affected
Syntocinon does not have the ‘love-effect’
and interferes with oxytocin production.
The metaphysical side of lotus birth
The time after birth is like the time after making
love. There is a certain sacredness to it. Lotus birth
slows and calms things down. It respects the baby’s
time to arrive from its inner to the outer world.
When the cord has stopped pulsing the placenta’s
physiological function is fulfilled and it slowly dies.
It is believed that in the days until the cord drops
off the placenta has a metaphysical function.
Leaving it attached will allow the placenta to transmit
its remaining life force and seal off the baby’s
aura. A strong aura may be an indication of health and
a strong immune system. A weak aura could provide entry
points for degenerative diseases.
Leaving cord and placenta attached is also a gesture
of respect. In fact there is no medical reason to separate
baby and placenta. Most babies cry when their cord is
cut. The two grew from the same cell and were intimate
companions who shared the same space for several months
interdependently side by side. As naturally as they grew
they will also naturally separate.
By now with new awareness in the modern developed countries
thousands of children have been lotus born. By giving
them a gentle and respectful welcome they are physiologically
and energetically well resourced. They are grounded and
trust in life. Their systems were given the optimal resources
to start life independently from their mothers.
This could be a new generation of children with a heightened
sense of wellbeing that the world really needs.
Another culture that is known to have practised lotus
birth are the American Native Indians.
Many others honour the umbilical cord and placenta through
various forms of ritual. In the animal world chimpanzees
are known to practise lotus birth while other animals
eat their placenta, making sure the young one receives
its benefits during breastfeeding.
How to practise lotus birth
Wait for the placenta to emerge naturally. Then put
it into a strainer within a bowl near the baby. Within
the first day wash and dry it. Then wrap it into some
absorbent material or a nappy that should be changed
daily. It is nice to sow your own placenta bag. Some
people salt the placenta which will dry it out. Others
prefer rosemary powder.
It is important to handle the baby and placenta carefully.
When the cord dries out be careful as it becomes very
brittle. It will become soft again if it is wet and reshaped
with some breast milk or warm water.
It is fine to bathe the baby, but someone should be nearby
to hold the placenta bag.
When the cord has fallen off the placenta can be frozen
and then be buried with a small ceremony when the time
Is lotus birth for everyone?
Lotus birth is suitable for people who enjoy spending
a relaxed and quiet time after birth.
People who like to invite lots of friends and pass the
baby around might find it challenging to carry placenta
and baby together.
It can be tempting to cut the cord when it becomes dry
and it is important that partners are aware of what they
are doing, as it wouldn’t be beneficial if the
baby became the centre of disagreement and tension concerning
Most midwives will support lotus birth, but not all
hospitals. That’s why it is important to find
out before the birth what the hospital’s policy
is and write the birth plan accordingly. Obviously
this is not an issue to sort out just as a baby is
born. It is also possible to do a lotus birth in combination
with a caesarean section.
For more information please read Shivam Rajana’s
excellent book ‘Lotus Birth’ by Greenwood
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