I’ve written before on this blog about the wonderful tether that keeps a baby close to his/her mother after birth. Here are some more ideas about preserving the sanctity of the umbilical cord and being respectful of the hours after birth.
Here are some of the thoughts and ideas I have gleaned over the years about leaving the umbilical cord intact until, at least, the placenta is birthed (extended delayed cord clamping) or not cutting it at all (lotus birth).
1. Leaving the cord to pulse does “no harm” and therefore should be encouraged. If you think
about what Nature intended, our ancestors way back before scissors and clamps were invented must have had to wait to deal with the cord/placenta at least until the placenta was birthed. They probably chewed it, ground it with rocks, or burned it through with hot sticks from the fire. Plastic umbilical cord clamps have little teeth that clamp onto the cord to quell bleeding (see photo), but they are a relatively recent invention so our very early ancestors probably chewed or traumatized the cord in some way. That could only have been done with the placenta out of the mother.
2. Leaving the cord alone slows down the “fire drill” energy that many birth attendants get into after the baby is born. Leaving off the busyness of midwifery for a half hour allows the mother and baby undisturbed bonding time without a “project” going on i.e. the cord cutting instructions, explanations, jokes, etc. Thus, the father, too, is undisturbed and able to enjoy this “high” time without focusing on a job at hand.
3. Preventing brain lesions in the newborn baby. Educator Joseph Chilton Pierce in his book “Magical Child” makes reference to studies that were done on primates who gave birth in captivity and had early cord clamping. Autopsies of the primates showed that early cord clamping produced unusual lesions in the brains of the animals.
These same lesions were also found in the brains of human infants when autopsied.
4. In Rh negative women, many people believe that it is the clamping of a pulsing cord that causes the blood of the baby to transfuse into the blood stream of the mother causing sensitization problems.
Robert S. Mendelsohn, M.D., in his book “How to Have a Healthy Child. . . In Spite of Your Doctor” blames the whole Rh negative problem on too quick clamping of the cord. Especially in Rh negative mothers, I urge midwives to wait until the placenta is out before thinking about cord clamping.
5. I think it is interesting that scientists are now discovering that umbilical cord blood is full of valuable T-cells which have cancer fighting properties. A whole industry has sprung up to have this precious blood extracted from the placenta, put in a cooler with dry ice, and taken to a special storage facility to be ready in case the child gets cancer at some time in the future. This is human insanity of the first order. That blood is designed by Nature to go into that child’s body at birth, not 30 yrs later! We need to acknowledge that there are things about the newborn circulation and blood composition that we just don’t know and we can bet that Mother Nature had things figured out pretty well for us to survive this long.
Something to think about: Maybe the supposed need for Vitamin K in the newborn comes out of early cord clamping? In my birth work (+1000 births) and practice of extended-delayed umbilical cord care, I have only given Vitamin K to one baby (on Day 8 after having a little blood on his diaper from the umbilicus every day < l tsp.--it was probably unnecessary). I have only had one Rh negative woman who showed fetal cells in her blood (she had had a bad fall 2
days prior to birth).
We have waited hours before cutting the cord and many couples never do cut it (they just carry baby, cord and placenta around together for days).
This is called Lotus Birthing and midwife Jeanine Parvati Baker popularized the
method. The nice thing is that it really limits the postpartum visitors list and keeps the new mother close to her bed!
If a baby needs resuscitation, it is important to leave the cord and do all work on Mom’s body. Cutting the back up oxygen supply doesn’t make any sense at all.
(The only time I cut a cord before the placenta comes out is if I have a mother in a water tub and I’m specifically worried about maternal blood loss. Then you want to get both out onto a dry surface quickly and sometimes it’s easier to
hand baby over to an adult while Mom is lifted separately. This would be a very rare occurrence).
Delayed cord clamping reduces the risk of feto-maternal transfusion, which is especially important for Rh negative mothers (Lapido, 1971; Rogers et al, 1998)
Added Jan 14, 2013 : Quote from British midwife, Mary Hall: “I have been a midwife for 32 years and have known at a deep level that putting a clamp on and cutting something (the umbilical cord) erect and pulsating vigorously was intrinsically wrong; it’s satisfying to see the evidence at last. Home births are physiological (that’s hard-core science, ahem), including cord management- -listen to the baby. There is only a very brief moment in time to make a decision that may impact on the infant for the next 70 years.”