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Are Doctors Causing Infant Brain Damage by Clamping the Umbilical Cord Prematurely?


birth, newbornNewborn lungs exist in a "compacted state" suitable for the womb. When the infant is born, the placenta and cord pulse for up to 20 minutes, delivering a burst of blood volume to the infant's system. This blood burst is just what is needed for the lungs of the newborn to expand.

Unfortunately, many hospitals and doctors don't understand the mechanics of this and are engaging in early umbilical cord clamping -- often within one minute of birth.

Without the burst of blood from the placenta, the infant suffers a drop in blood pressure as its lungs fail to open as they should, creating a chain reaction of effects that can include brain damage and lung damage. Immediate cord clamping can cause hypotension, hypovolemia and infant anemia, resulting in cognitive deficits. Some have even theorized that the rise in autism could be linked at least in part to early cord clamping.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:
When a baby is born, one of the first procedures performed is the clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord. In hospitals, this task is often done before 30 seconds have elapsed because it’s believed it will reduce the mother’s risk of excess bleeding and the baby’s risk of jaundice.

Very often cords are clamped early also to collect cord blood and cord stem cells to be used for various medical and commercial purposes.

However, research is increasingly revealing that clamping the umbilical cord prematurely, before two or even three full minutes have elapsed, robs your baby of much-needed blood and oxygen.

Today there is absolutely no consensus about the optimal time to clamp the umbilical cord after birth, yet over 200 years ago in 1801, Erasmus Darwin (Charles Darwin’s grandfather) shared some wise words on the topic that have been largely overlooked:
"Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases.

As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child."
Suffocating Baby at Birth?
One of the primary arguments for delaying cord clamping has to do with the way a baby breathes just before and after being born.

Before birth, the baby’s lungs are filled with fluid and very little blood flows through them; the child receives oxygen from its mother through the placenta and cord. This placental oxygen supply continues after the child is born until the lungs are working and supplying oxygen -- that is, when they are filled with air and all the blood from the right side of the heart is flowing through them.

After birth, when the child is crying and pink, the cord vessels clamp themselves. During this interval between birth and natural clamping, blood is transfused from the placenta to establish blood flow through the baby’s lungs. The natural process protects the baby’s brain by providing a continuous oxygen supply from two sources until the second source is functioning well.

However, according to George M. Morley, M.B., Ch. B., FACOG of, immediate cord clamping at birth instantly cuts off the placental oxygen supply and the baby remains asphyxiated until the lungs function. Blood, which normally would have been transfused to establish the child's lung circulation, remains clamped in the placenta, and the child diverts blood from all other organs to fill the lung blood vessels.

While most full-term babies have enough blood to establish lung function and prevent brain damage, the process often leaves them pale and weak. For premature babies, the process can be even more devastating. And no matter what, immediate cord clamping will cause some degree of asphyxia and loss of blood volume because it:
1. Completely cuts off the infant brain's oxygen supply from the placenta before lungs begin to function.

2. Stops placental transfusion -- the transfer of a large volume of blood (up to 50% increase in total blood volume) that is used mainly to establish circulation through the baby's lungs to start them functioning.
Injuries Related to Immediate Cord Clamping
Keeping valuable oxygen and blood from an infant by clamping the umbilical cord prematurely increases the baby’s risk of brain hemorrhage and breathing problems. It has also been implicated as a contributing factor to:
• Autism
Cerebral Palsy
• Anemia
• Learning disorders and mental deficiency
• Behavioral disorders
• Respiratory distress
Immediate cord clamping has even been identified as causing brain injuries that lead to death, according to Morley.
Are You Seeking Natural Childbirth Options?
Given the overwhelming research about the potential harms of early cord clamping, both the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) have dropped the practice from their guidelines.

But it is still widely done in the United States and other developed countries, especially if you give birth in a hospital with an obstetrician (specially trained surgeons). This is one of many reasons why you may want to consider having a midwife deliver your baby instead.

There is not a single report in the scientific literature that shows obstetricians to be safer than midwives for low risk or normal pregnancy and birth. So if you are among the more than 75 percent of all women with a normal pregnancy, the safest birth attendant for you and your baby is in fact not a doctor but a midwife or doula.

A midwife will be more accommodating to your wishes, such as waiting for two to three minutes, or until the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating, before it is cut. Caesarean rates and use of other drug and surgical interventions also tend to be lower when you use a midwife.

One study in the British Medical Journal even found that a woman’s risk of death during delivery is three to five times higher during caesarean than a natural delivery, her risk of hysterectomy four times higher, and her risk of being admitted to intensive care is two times higher.
Fortunately, there are many excellent resources out there for anyone who is planning a natural childbirth, including delayed cord clamping, and here are some to get you started.

Education resources:
• Birthing from Within: An Extraordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
HypnoBirthing: A Celebration of Life by Marie Mongan 
The Womanly Art of Breast Feeding by the La Leche League International
• Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
Safer Medicine by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein
Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic, and Birth by Susan Arms 
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon 
• Optimal Foetal Positioning by Jean Sutton
Prenatal Parenting by Fred Wirth
Home birth resources:
• The Home Birth Advantage by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein
Homefirst Health Services
• Check the yellow pages or do a google search for home birth providers in your area
How to find a midwife, doula, or birth attendant:
Doulas of North America 
Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association 
Association of Labor Attendants and Childbirth Educators
Midwifery Today
BirthLink (Chicago area)
Waterbirth resources:
Waterbirth International  
Emotional resources:
The Secret Life of the Unborn Child by Dr. Thomas Verny
• Find a local Energy Tapping practitioner