Aristotle was on to something, way back in the B.C.’s, when he wrote approvingly of the midwifery practice of not cutting the cord until the placenta was delivered.
He was also struck by the midwives’ practice of “stripping” the umbilical cord in emergencies: forcing the blood remaining in the umbilical cord back into a newly born baby in need of reviving.
‘‘Frequently the child appears to be born dead, when it is feeble and when, before the tying of the cord, a flux of blood occurs into the cord and adjacent parts. Some nurses who have already acquired skill squeeze (the blood) back out of the cord (into the child’s body) and at once the baby, who had previously been as if drained of blood, comes to life again.’’
For Aristotle and centuries of midwives, cord clamping was a thing best done slowly.
In the 1970s western hospital-based medicine abandoned the practice of “delayed” cord clamping*–that is, waiting until the cord stops pulsing to cut it. In an effort to decrease postpartum hemorrhage, “early” clamping–cutting the cord as soon as possible–became the norm. But new research now proves that, as far as umbilical cords go, the old way is still the best.
Researchers in Sweden recently showed that delayed clamping is not only safe, it’s highly beneficial to babies. In a world in which iron deficiency damages the brains of millions of children a year (including here in the U.S. – more on that in a later post), delayed clamping allows more iron-rich blood to pass from the placenta to the baby at birth.
The Swedish researchers found that all measures of iron metabolism were improved in four month-olds who were treated with delayed clamping. No complications or side effects were noted.
It’s time for hospitals to re-adopt delayed clamping as standard procedure, just as nature intended. To borrow another Aristotle-ism, “Nature does nothing without reason or in vain.” Amen.
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*(“Natural” would be a better term than “delayed”, seeing as that’s when nature chooses to close down the blood vessels in the cord. But I don’t get a vote on these things, so we’ll go with “delayed.”)