Pulsing Cord = Oxygenated Baby

June 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

Generations of midwives and doulas have known the importance of allowing the umbilical cord to pulse as long as it wants to.  Have you ever witnessed the birth of any other mammal?  We are mammals after all, though we are the only ones that routinely deny newborns large amounts of their own blood.  Most babies in our culture today have their cords clamped and cut seconds after birth.  So what?  So those babies are being denied up to a 1/3 of their blood supply.

If parents understood that the placenta is part of their baby’s circulatory system throughout the pregnancy, they would likely ask their midwife/ob/nurse not to clamp the cord prematurely.  Upon birth the placenta is still functioning.  The baby’s blood pulses through the cord and then stays in the baby.

The Placenta: essential resuscitation equipment is an excellent article that includes suggestions of how parents themselves can be the safest and most effective resuscitators if a baby does not begin to breathe moments after birth.  While I realize it is extremely unlikely that parents would take on that role in a hospital setting, the parents in the homebirth videos included in the article provide powerful images of how important parents are during their baby’s birth, including the moment of that first breathe and first cry.

It may help parents to remember, the placenta provided your baby with oxygen throughout the pregnancy.  That process will continue to work upon the baby’s birth.  Suctioning a newborn may actually create health concerns.  Parents can ask nurses/obs/midwives not to suction a baby immediately, at least waiting until after the baby has fully birthed.  As long as the cord is pulsing, the baby is receiving oxygen.

The videos included in The Placenta: essential resuscitation equipment are amazing to watch.  The first, Alliengeburth, is an actual video of a woman giving birth while squatting in a field.

While I was watching the second video, my 4-year-old son walked in, sat on my lap, and watched it with me.  It’s such a beautiful, loving birth story, I hope it makes a lasting impression on him of what childbirth looks like.

The Zoey video is thankfully brief.  It is a jarring departure from the mother/baby-centered natural births depicted in the other videos.

Aida’s baby took so long to breathe it scared the heck out of me.  Wow, that midwife and mother had such remarkable faith in the baby’s body and placenta to be able to so calmly and lovingly help her to take her first breath.  An astounding illustration of the power of the placenta.

Inga’s surprise unassisted birth is a powerful video of a woman birthing her baby in the way that feels right to her.  She breathes/growns/whispers/pushes however feels right to her at each moment.  You see why it’s called labor.  Yet because she directs every action herself, it appears a totally different experience than any birth every Hollywood director has apparently ever witnessed.  I doubt Inga would describe her birth as orgasmic, but someone listening without seeing the video might think it was porn.

Anabel’s unassisted homebirth shows a remarkably different response to a potentially risky situation than what would been a likely hospital scenario.  This mother recognized the presence of meconium and responded by pushing her baby out quickly without waiting for another contraction to help.  Then a few anxious minutes of gently massaging her baby, holding her baby to her chest, talking to her baby, blowing in her baby’s face, and eventually sucking a moment on her baby’s mouth, opened the airways.  A likely response in a hospital would have been immediate suctioning that could have potentially introduced meconium into her nasal passages, immediate clamping and cutting of the cord, bringing the baby to a table to perform CPR with sterilized tools, separating the baby from her parents and 1/3 of her blood supply.  This is a baby that really needed that blood.

The information included in The Placenta: essential resuscitation equipment and the videos depicting parents resuscitating their newborns may certainly help parents recognize the importance of taking steps to ensure their baby’s cord is not clamped prematurely.  It may also encourage parents to have faith in the wisdom of their babies, their bodies, and all of mother nature, right down to the placenta.

While you’re at the Midwife Thinking blog, check out some of her other posts.  It is an excellent resource.


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§ 2 Responses to Pulsing Cord = Oxygenated Baby

  • Marcy Andrew says:

    Victoria, I love your blog! The midwives with whom I’m currently starting to practice advocate lotus birth, which takes the whole relationship between placenta and baby to a whole new level. Robin Lim writes about the spiritual and physiological significance. I’m just beginning to learn about it and am excited to see it in practice. Much love to you!

    • Marcy, I’m interested to hear more about your experience with lotus birth. My initial reaction to the idea was that as a new mom I would not want to carry around and manage a placenta along with a newborn. As with most ideas that seem crazy initially, familiarity breeds comfort. I like the ritual nature of honoring the significance of the placenta as the baby transitions from womb to independence. Does your new midwifery practice also provide placenta encapsulation for moms who choose that? Great to hear your input. Thanks for the encouraging words.

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