To cut or not to cut the cord?

Nowadays in most hospitals, the protocol is to cut the baby's umbilical cord as early as possible, often seconds after it is born, and before the birth of the placenta. Nothing proves that this intervention has any advantages at all. 

First of all, it is good to know that when the baby is born, a large part of it's blood volume is still in the placenta, because of all the exchanges that are being made between the baby and the placenta until the baby takes his first breath. So at the moment of birth, about one third of the baby's blood volume is still somewhere in the cord or in the placenta. By cutting the cord too early, we deprive the newborn infant of ont third of it's entire blood volume, which is a lot. By waiting until the cord has stopped to pulsate, which takes anywhere between two and fifteen minutes, we allow the placenta to finish transferring the rest of the baby's blood into it's little body, and also decrease the risks of anemia in the newborn.

Delayed cord clamping also helps a lot with mother-baby bonding. During pregnancy, the placenta and cord have been the link, the bond between mother and child. At birth a new bond must be created, because the cord will eventually be cut, dry and fall off. Th simple act of putting the baby skin-to-skin on the mother, and to allow them to meet and bond without handling the baby and until the new bond is woven. Cutting the cord early to take the baby away, even for a few minutes just to make a few tests causes a great stress to the baby. By leaving the cord attached, it also becomes physically impossible to take the baby away from the mother.

On top of it all, there is also the oxygen issue. During the whole pregnancy, the cord has been the baby's lifeline, it is what kept him alive by sending oxygen into his body. At birth, the switch must be made and the baby has to start breathing on it's own. Cutting the cord even before the baby has taken a proper breath is simply illogical. What if the baby has a little trouble getting started? As long as the baby stays connected, he is still receiving some oxygen. This gives him a little chance, a lifeline in case there is a little bit of difficulty at the start.

And about the actual cord clamp, being the piece of plastic used to clamp the cord before cutting it and until it dries. Have you ever seen one up close? It's pretty big. If you compare the size of that thing with the size of the baby, you will realize that it takes up almost half of the baby's abdominal width. Imagine that once that thing is tied to the baby's belly, we put it skin to skin with the mother, and expect it to be comfortable and to bond with her, even with a huge plastic clamp in between. It is actually not that rare to see babies trying to pull away their abdomen in discomfort. And now, try to imagine the size a cord clamp would have if it were proportionally made for an adult. Do you think you'd be able to cuddle and make love to your partner with such a thing between you? Doesn't really sound like a good idea, right? It would be an utterly uncomfortable and illogical thing to do. Then why not wait until mother and baby have properly met and cuddled before clamping the cord?

Newborn with his or her cord clam

Evolution of an uncut umbilical cord during the first 15 minutes 

Cord that was cut immediately or shortly following birth
Cord that was cut between 20 and 60 minutes after birth


Here is a nice little video by Penny Simkin that explains it all:


Have a nice day!


Sources:
LIM, Robin, Placenta, the Forgotten Chakra, Half Angel Press, 2010, 180 pages.
GASKIN, Ina May, Spiritual Midwifery, Book Publishing Company, 2002, 480 pages
GASKIN, Ina May, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Bantam Books, 2003, 348 pages 




Comments