Benefits Of Not Cutting The Umbilical Cord
The first time I saw my newborn son was when they wheeled him out of the delivery room on a gurney. It took them about an hour to get him from the hospital where he delivered into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He was so tiny that his little head didn’t even reach above the top rail of the bed. They put him under a blue light to keep him calm while they waited for some of his vital signs to stabilize. When I finally got to hold him, I couldn’t believe how small and fragile he felt in my arms. A nurse noticed me holding him and said, “We don’t usually let mothers touch their babies until the doctor gives them the go-ahead.” She explained that it was common practice to wait because babies who are handled too much can become stressed by all the attention. In the meantime, nurses would bring the baby to me one at a time every fifteen minutes or so. After about two hours, they brought him over to meet his mom. I held him up against my face and kissed him several times. He looked like such a miracle! His skin was soft as butter and there were no tears or snot anywhere. My husband had gone through labor with him so we knew what to expect, but meeting our new son really made us feel better prepared for the big day.
As soon as we left the hospital, we celebrated with friends and family. We also decided to have a home birth since we wanted to do things naturally. We went to the midwife three days later to make sure everything was okay and to check on him before we started preparing for the big move. Within a few days we moved to another state without ever using any pain medication, Pitocin or forceps during labor. Our experience gave us a different perspective on our upcoming Cesarean section which we planned for weeks earlier. Instead of dreading it, I felt excited about going to the hospital and getting the full medical treatment. Once we arrived, I felt safe knowing that I wouldn’t be making decisions on my own behalf. At least this way I could rest assured that someone else would take care of my needs.
After we checked into the hospital, we were given discharge papers and told about visiting hours. We were allowed to stay in the hospital with our son for a week if we chose to pay for it ourselves, but most people opt to leave the following morning. While we did spend a couple nights in the hospital, we spent most of our time at home. Even though we only stayed in the hospital overnight twice during our entire pregnancy, I still think it’s important to be able to return home after giving birth. Having a home birth allows you to bond with your child immediately and makes for a smoother transition once you’re back on your feet. You’ll also save money on lodging, food and parking fees. Plus, being able to relax and avoid the noise of the city makes for a much less stressful recovery.
So why does the hospital insist on cutting the umbilical cord? According to Dr. Peter Meyers, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, the reason goes beyond mere convenience. Cutting the cord prematurely exposes the baby to anesthesia, medications and general anesthesia risks that can cause long term problems. This includes breathing difficulties and infections. Also, babies who are deprived of oxygen due to the clamping of the cord will require more time in the NICU than normal. Premature infants who receive supplemental oxygen via nasal cannula often need to remain intubated longer than those whose cords aren’t cut. And premature infants who are hooked up to IVs may end up spending more time in the ICU than they should. These additional stays in the hospital, often called neonatology units, add costs to families’ medical bills.
Cutting the cord early also deprives the baby of receiving natural substances and nutrients offered by the placenta. Most hospitals use suction devices to remove fluid from the stump of the cord as soon as possible to prevent infection. But studies show that babies who are kept attached to the placenta receive higher amounts of hormones, amino acids and electrolytes. Cutting the cord too early causes these substances to be released into the mother’s bloodstream rather than her baby’s. Because of this, many doctors say that keeping the cord intact provides benefits that cannot be provided by simply waiting until after childbirth.
If you choose to have a natural birth, you won’t be pressured to cut the cord at any point during labor. However, you must follow strict guidelines set forth by law in order to protect yourself and your baby’s safety. If you or your partner has certain conditions that affect your ability to give birth vaginally, you might want to consider a waterbirth instead. Water births allow you to deliver safely outside of the hospital so that you can continue with your daily routine afterward.
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