If you watch Hollywood movies – birth is horrifically painful and, cutting the cord is a medical emergency. It must be done PRONTO or else……….
The idea that being connected to the umbilical cord is a danger, definitely adds to the drama of birth, but cutting the cord immediately, is actually more of a “health hazard”, in the long run, than waiting a minute or two.
The trouble with early cord clamping………..
Baby loses out on all the blood which is currently doing the rounds through the placenta. It isn’t a huge amount, but when you’re a tiny human, every drop counts. Especially when you realize, those drops of blood are carrying a very precious cargo – IRON.
In the short term, early cord clamping increases the risk of a child suffering from iron deficiency. In the long term, the consequences are a lot more subtle, but there are consequences.
This is what a team of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden discovered, when they compared the overall “performance”, of 4 years olds, who had experienced early cord clamping, with youngsters who had experienced, a delay in cord clamping.
Down the road…
The Swedish team tracked down families that had participated in an earlier study, designed to measure the short-term impact of cord clamping. This ground breaking study, showed delayed cord clamping, reduced the risk of iron deficiency at 4 months.
The team wanted to know, if it had benefited the children, beyond the four month window.
So, all the original participants were sent an invitation, just before their 4th birthday, inviting them to return to the lab, for an assessment.
This time, the team was not interested in iron status, but brain status.
Not everyone who was invited, came to the party. Only 243 of the original 382 participants opted to participate in the second study.
As part of the study,
- the kids were assessed by a trained psychologist – their IQ, fine motor skills and behaviour was evaluated
- the parents were also asked, to provide feedback on their child’s communication, gross and fine motor skills, problem solving ability and personal-social interactions
The team found, no real differences in brain power, between the two groups of kids.
But, there was a difference in muscle power………..
Fine motor skills were “impaired”
Especially in little boys.
Both the psychologist and the parents, picked up on the fact, that the kids whose umbilical cord’s had been cut, immediately, showed impaired fine motor skills.
They didn’t hold their pencils “maturely”. And battled to draw within a bicycle trail.
Suggesting, cutting the cord sooner, rather than later, made a “tiny” difference to overall development.
It makes sense……………….. iron is an important nutrient.
A goldilocks nutrient
Iron is one of those nutrients, you need JUST THE RIGHT amount, at the RIGHT time.
- Too much can cause increased oxidative stress, as well as vulnerability to infections.
- Too little, and tissues can find themselves short of oxygen and thus energy.
Getting iron levels right in the body, is a tightly regulated process.
For the most part, iron is acquired little, by little. And then access, to the iron, is carefully controlled.
For babies this can be problematic.
Babies are growing FAST. They need lots of iron……………… more than they can absorb from their diet. Mother Nature knows this, so she provides a little stash of iron, to get baby over the hump.
But for many babies, the iron cookie jar is depleted.
Sometimes, the iron cookie jar is depleted, because circumstances had left Mom’s cupboard bare. Unfortunately, if a Mom’s iron status is poor, there is simply not enough iron to go round.
But, for babies born to well nourished Moms, the problem arises because their supply, inadvertently, gets left behind, in the placenta.
The missing iron
Up to the moment of birth, Mom and baby’s blood supplies are intertwined within the placenta. During the birthing process, the placenta detaches from Mom………….
And out baby comes, into the big AIR FILLED world.
As baby grabs his or her first breath of air, an enormous physiological transition happens……………..baby takes responsibility for supplying the cells and tissues with oxygen. The placenta’s job is over.
But……..the placenta doesn’t cease and desist, immediately.
It methodically empties out all the blood inside it. This means, all the blood belonging to baby, is returned to baby, this boosts baby’s blood volume and weight. The process takes 2-3 minutes.
When the cord is cut early, within 10 seconds of birth, this blood remains stuck in the placenta.
Up to 75 mg of iron, can end up being trapped in the placenta.
Get the full iron stash
It will take baby approx. 3 months, to gather this much iron from food. Eish !
Since iron plays such a vital role in development – starting out with the stash, Mother Nature prepared seems the prudent thing to do.
Cutting the cord quickly is standard medical practise, but delayed clamping is not difficult to do.
It is a little hard to hold onto a wet, vigorously crying, and wriggling infant with gloved hands, for 2 minutes. Suggest they plop baby onto your chest, while they wait for the placenta to stop pulsing. This way, you can kick start the bonding process, with a little skin-to-skin contact, while you get all the benefits of delayed cord clamping.
Babies fed iron enriched formula, in the absence of iron deficiency, end up performing worse on standardised tests of cognitive performance at the age of 10.
Where you live counts…. as a rule, the nicer the environment – the nicer your life. But the place you really want to BE NICE, is your Mom’s womb.
Inflammed placentas put baby’s at risk, because the feeding line is compromised. During pregnancy, fighting this fire, is your number one priority
If you are an expectant Mom or know someone that is – invite them to participate, so they can create Better Body Chemistry during their pregnancy and raise a HAPPY HEALTHY little one.