Lotus birth, or Umbilical Nonseverance, is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord unclamped and intact following birth, rather than intervening upon the normal physiological process of Wharton's jelly changes which produce a natural internal clamping within 10-20 minutes postpartum. The umbilical cord then dries and eventually detaches from the umbilicus. Detachment generally occurs 2-3 days after birth.
The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of a unified approach to care of the mother and the baby, and clearly states (in Care in Normal Birth: A Practical Guide, Geneva, Switzerland, 1997) "Late clamping (or not clamping at all) is the physiological way of treating the cord, and early clamping is an intervention that needs justification.”
When Umbilical Nonseverance or Lotus Birth is practiced, rarely in hospitals but more common in birth centers and home births, maternal-neonatal bonding proceeds uninterrupted, which is beneficial for both mother and newborn WHO's Third Stage Protocols While care providers conduct immediate Apgar scoring and any needed neonatal suctioning/stimulation, most further procedures are postponed until an hour after the birth. The baby-cord-placenta unit is swaddled by the mother in-arms, or held by a father or nurse during maternal suturing.
Different cultural practices use the preserved placenta in different ways. Some people prefer for the child to have the placenta so that it can be buried with the child at the end of his or her life. Others keep the placenta until it falls off naturally and it is then buried, the Igbo people in Nigeria bury the placenta right after birth and often a tree is planted over it.
For Full Nonseverance/Lotus Births, the excess fluids are wiped off the placenta and it is kept in an open bowl or wrapped in a cloth, in close proximity to the neonate. The cloths used to wrap the placenta or cover a bowl must allow air through, so that the placenta can air and begin to dry out and not become malodorous. Sea salt is often applied to the placenta to help dry it out. Sometimes essential oils, such as lavender, or powdered herbs such as goldenseal, neem, along with lavender are also applied for their additional antibacterial properties. If drying applications are not applied the well-aired placenta will have a distinct, musky scent which can be halted by directly planting it or by refrigerated storage after the first postpartum week. In hospitals and global medical centers, common medical training and practice is "Active Management" of Third Stage Labor: administration of oxytocic drugs, immediate external clamping of the cord at birth, cutting it forthwith, then applying traction to the cord to speed the birth of the placenta rather leaving the cord-placenta-baby unit intact to provide for, as proponents of claim, a physiologically gentle transition of mother and baby. The cord blood may or may not be harvested for cord blood banking. The baby's umbilical cord and placenta are then disposed of as medical waste or sold to laboratories.
The practice gained notice in the yoga practitioner community when Jeannine Parvati Baker, author of the first book on prenatal yoga in the West, Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth practiced umbilical nonseverance for two of her own births, seeing it as a practical application of the yogic value of ahimsa as well as the core yoga teaching inherent in the primal bonding process that "All attachments will fall away of their own accord."
In the 1990s, Sarah Buckley MD, an Australian family physician and noted parenting advisor for the magazine Mothering, published her personal birth stories in the text Lotus Birth, and has produced numerous scholarly publications of her research on the physiological benefits of Passive Management of Third Stage Labor.
Umbilical nonseverance, or Lotus Birth, is an informed choice option currently practiced by a minority of homebirth and hospital birth families [See the research of Sarah Buckley, M.D. and Int'l Midwife Robin Lim], and an increasingly popular continuing education topic for licensed midwives and certified nurse midwives in publications such as the magazine Midwifery Today and Mothering. Particularly compelling to these professionals is the reported absence of healthy neonatal weight loss and breastfeeding jaundice in lotus birth scenarios, as yet formally studied.
In Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, the name "Lotus-Birth" was what described spiritual teachers such as Gautama Buddha and Padmasambhava (Lien-hua Sen), emphasizing their entering the world as an intact, holy child. References to Lotus Birth are also found in Hinduism, for example, the story of the birth of Vishnu.
Religious Christians and Jews who choose umbilical nonseverance see it relevant to the strength of the visionary prophet Ezekiel who was cast out of his tribe Ezekiel 16:4 of the Bible, "As for your birth, the day you were born your navel cord was not cut."
Report of a technical working group, Geneva, Switzerland, 1997