Lotus birth to blame for death of Australian newborn (spiritual practices)


EXCERPTS: I last discussed the dangerous practice of Lotus Birth back in 2018. In the roughly 18 months since then, no evidence has emerged to change my final conclusion that there is zero benefit and plenty of risk. Unfortunately, more evidence for the potential serious harm inherent in the practice did come to my attention earlier this month. The tragic case of Harlow Eden is one of the more heart wrenching and infuriating that I’ve encountered in my nearly two decades of interest in pseudoscience in medicine.

Lotus Birth occurs when both the baby and the placenta are delivered without severance of the umbilical cord [...] the placenta is left attached to the baby for at several days and is kept in a special salt and herb-filled sack or bucket until the dried umbilical cord separates naturally from the baby.

[...] In her still prominent ... and recently updated post on Lotus Birth, Genevieve “Mama Natural” Howland attempts to present a balanced discussion of the practice, likely pulling in people on the fence, but fails miserably ... Check out this excellent discussion of Lotus Birth by Joshua Krisch as a counter to Howland’s egregious post. This paragraph in particular stood out:

"Of course, not all parents have even a passing understanding of microbiology and those that swear by the practice speak of it in less medical terms, claiming to feel a spiritual attachment to what is essentially decaying, diseased tissue. But emotional urge to retain this piece of pregnancy shouldn’t be conflated with an evolutionary instinct. Nor should it be argued that cutting the umbilical cord too soon is bad for your baby."

[...] We now come to the heart-wrenching story of Harlow Eden. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In 2017, Harlow was born via an emergency C-Section in a Melbourne hospital. She was a “miracle baby” born after 13 years and more than a dozen IVF attempts. This, and exposure to all manner of pseudoscientific medical misinformation, likely led Harlow’s parents to choose a Lotus Birth. Their stated goal was to ease Harlow’s transitioning and to boost her immune system.

As is often the case, because parents unfortunately tend to cluster these types of poor medical decisions, Harlow’s parents also chose to refuse science-based recommendations for intramuscular vitamin K and the Hepatitis B vaccine. They also practiced vaginal seeding, another risk factor for serious infection. And, sadly, they also refused initial attempts by hospital staff to move Harlow to a special care nursery for closer observation.

By 16 hours of age, Harlow had developed hypoglycemia, which can occur in any baby but is more likely to occur when they are sick. At that point, the umbilical cord was cut and she was transferred to the special care nursery. She soon developed signs of sepsis, with respiratory distress and poor perfusion, so antibiotics were initiated. Despite this, she died the following day after having been transferred to a tertiary care center. The coroner determined that Harlow died from sepsis in the setting of a Lotus Birth.

[...] I came across an interesting discussion of the medico-legal considerations on Lotus Birth in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics which was free and in English. It isn’t too long but goes into ... the pathophysiology of the placenta, so it’s worth a read if you are curious about that kind of thing. But it is the ethical considerations that I was most interested in... (MORE - details)

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