I was obsessed with the first season of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant, and watched every single episode. Eventually I started to get annoyed with a lot of things, but one of them that really struck me as irritating was that in every single damn reenactment, they mentioned how the emergency medical team, or the 911 operator insisted that the baby's cord be clamped and cut immediately.
As if the placenta was suddenly going to turn into acid that would seep back up the umbilical cord and start killing the baby, they'd shout, "Find a shoelace or something! Tie it off!" and the already-terrified people would run around like crazy until they found something that wasn't sterile and potentially dangerous in it's own right to tie on the cord and eventually cut it with.
Not only is that unnecessary, but it causes a ton of problems for the baby ... even if it's done by a doctor in the hospital using sterile tools.
At some point during your labor and delivery, your body stops taking your blood and giving it to the baby, via the placenta. The placenta continues to deliver its stores of blood and oxygen to the newborn after this point.
When left alone, the placenta will pump itself pretty dry -- all the things your body has given to it to maintain the baby will go out of the placenta, down the umbilical cord, and into your newborn baby.
As long as you let it do it's job.
But in this country, clamping the cord is often done within the very first minute the newborn is out of the mother. Why? Well, because that's how it's always been done. But the fact of the matter is, unless the baby needs to be taken away from the mother immediately or is being seriously strangled by the cord (not just around it's neck, which is common and normal), the cord needs to be left alone.
The oxygen and blood that remain in the placenta at the time of birth are meant to belong to your baby. That is part of your baby's blood supply -- in fact, depending on how your birth goes, up to 21 percent of your baby's blood supply can still be in the placenta at the time of birth.
It's no surprise that clamping the cord before all of the oxygenated blood has gone into the baby's system leads to babies who need oxygen delivered to them artificially, as well as low blood pressure and anemia ... you know, all things that happen when you lose a lot of blood, which is essentially what this is. In extreme cases, newborns need transfusions and suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen. It could also explain why we give the vitamin K shot so often in this country.
I made sure everyone who came in the room when my daughter was born knew that they were not to clamp the cord until it was limp, yellow/white and not pulsing anymore. Aurora's cord finished quickly, but I didn't know it. I was cuddling my vernix-covered newborn when I heard the *clink* of the hemostat and I threw my hand over my leg and grabbed the doctor's hand and said, "WAIT UNTIL IT'S DONE PULSING!" Everyone stopped and stared at me, and he mumbled, "It is, see?" and held it up. It is such a tiny thing, but it's so incredibly important.
I know people laugh at birth plans, but this is something you NEED to insist on. Get your spouse to help you advocate this need. The practice of early clamping absolutely has to stop, unless there is a medical emergency. Make sure whoever is with you at birth is aware that they aren't to touch the cord without your okay!
Have you heard about the dangers of early clamping?
Editor's Note: This is the opinion of the writer and not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor or midwife for medical advice.
Image via Lab2112/Flickr