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RCOG statement on umbilical non-severance or “lotus birth”

News 1 December 2008

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is aware that a small number of women are choosing umbilical non-severance, or “lotus birth.” Lotus birth is a practice in which the umbilical cord is not cut after birth. The baby remains attached to the placenta until the umbilical cord dries and eventually detaches from the umbilicus. Detachment generally occurs a few days after birth. No research exists on lotus births and there is currently no medical evidence that it is of benefit to the baby.

While the RCOG fully supports normal birth and believes that every woman should have the right to make informed choices about her birth and afterbirth options where appropriate, the safety and wellbeing of the mother and baby is paramount.

Before choosing umbilical non-severance, all women should be fully informed of the potential risks, which may include infection and associated risks to the baby's health.

The RCOG would like to stress that at present, the practice of lotus birth is new to the UK and there is a lack of research regarding its safety.

Dr Patrick O'Brien, RCOG spokesperson, said:

“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. Within a short time after birth, once the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating, the placenta has no circulation and is essentially dead tissue.”

If women do opt for umbilical non-severance, the RCOG strongly recommends that their babies be monitored carefully for any signs of infection.