Umbilical Cord Trend of Just Letting It Fall Off May Ease Parents' Stress

Friday, 12 Apr 2013 11:21 AM

By Michael Mullins

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"Lotus birth" is being pushed as one way to reduce newborn-related stress among new parents. It's another way of saying "umbilical nonseverance," or the practice of just clamping the umbilical cord following a baby's birth and then waiting for it to fall off naturally.

Mary Ceallaigh, a birth consultant and doula in Austin, Texas, promotes the eastern practice to her clients which she believes can help mothers and babies bond immediately after birth.

"It is a trend getting more notice in western culture particularly among holistically inclined people," Ceallaigh told ABC News. "[It's] just as another way to create optimal beginnings for babies."

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According to Ceallaigh, the custom has its roots in Indonesia's Balinese culture in which mothers often choose to keep the umbilical cord attached until it detaches naturally anywhere from two to 10 days after birth.

"A lot of people, they don’t understand that the baby, the placenta, they’re all made from the same cells," said Ceallaigh. "It’s not some kind of waste material the body produces separately."

In addition to reinforcing the bond between mother and child, umbilical nonseverance can also have positive health benefits, according to Dr. James Van Hook, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

According to Van Hook, the mother's nutrients will continue to flow to the newborn in the hours after the baby is born, even if it is clamped within minutes of the birth. The extra nutrients could help guard against infections, said Van Hook.

Umbilical cords are clamped immediately after birth to prevent the baby from getting unnecessary blood from the mother, which could put the child at risk of becoming jaundiced.

"On one hand, we want the safest possible delivery. On the other hand, it’s a natural process," Van Hook told ABC News. "It’s an area [where we need] to figure out how to balance the joy of having a baby with safety."

Van Hook added that the riskiest aspect of so-called "lotus births" is making sure that the area around the umbilical cord remains clean while it is attached to the baby, considering an infection at such an early stage of the child's development could potentially be a serious health risk.

So long as there were no underlying medical issues, Van Hook said, he wouldn't advise against a parent deciding to have a "lotus birth."

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"If I was taking care of a patient, that’s some of the choices people make," said Van Hook. "They’re empowered to make their choices."

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