|In this photo, Tye is still attached to me via her umbilical cord, which is still pulsing and bringing precious blood from the placenta into her body.|
Even with medical interventions available now, clamping the umbilical cord early removes the protection provided by the cord. If the baby requires a little encouragement to begin breathing on her own, as long as she is connected to the placenta via her cord, her body is still receiving oxygen-rich blood, just as it was in the womb. By delaying cord clamping 5 minutes and allowing the placenta to finish pumping blood back into the baby's body, the result is 61% higher blood volume than in a newborn with immediate cord clamping. At four hours after birth, a baby who received delayed cord clamping has higher hematocrit levels and a red cell volume 60% greater than those who had not. Now, new research out of Sweden this week shows that infants provided delayed cord clamping have higher iron levels and lower incidence of iron deficiency at 4 months of age. That cord blood is the gift that keeps on giving.
Of course, there are situations in which the mother and baby need to be separated immediately to save the life of one or both. Simple prematurity isn't reason enough, however. In infants with very low birth weight, delayed cord clamping reduces incidence of intraventricular hemmorhage and late-onset sepsis. Delaying cord clamping combined with kangaroo care provides better outcomes for even very premature babies. The idea that the infant needs to be whisked away to NICU isn't always based on the best information possible; rather, when asked why delayed cord clamping isn't practiced, doctors cited "difficulty with implementation in clinical practice." Those precious minutes that could potentially save a newborn's life and at the very least protect the newborn for months after birth are eliminated to save time. How tragic.
Tyler did eventually cut Tye's umbilical cord once it stopped pulsing. As soon as she was dried, Tye was laid on my chest, skin to skin, and began nursing as I delivered my placenta. In awe of the organ that had sustained my Baby Girl for 38 weeks, I begged Tyler to take pictures.
Our bodies were created with far more in mind than speed and convenience. As more research is done on the implications of birth interventions, we're learning that cutting corners and changing the natural route of birth can cause more harm than good. But it would be foolish to think that the only advantages of delayed cord clamping are those measured by science. Our family was afforded ten minutes of beautiful bonding time uninterrupted by outside influences. Tyler and I gazed at our Baby Girl in utter awe. Then, at the moment Tyler clipped Tye's cord, I remember coming to a sudden realization that my baby was being fully separated from me for the first time. I know I wouldn't have been able to savor that moment in the same way had it happened in the seconds following the birth. Looking back, the peace in those still minutes after birth were precious time for us to bond and together admire the miracle in my arms.