Ninety Seconds

How much can happen in 90 seconds anyway?

It all depends on that 90 seconds. If I’m standing in line at the grocery store, 90 seconds seems short, but if I’m holding my breath, 90 seconds seems like an eternity.

We are curious creatures; we seek to understand the mysteries that elude us. We search, we discover and of all our discoveries, the one we need most of all is to discover how very little we know.After years of research, we still don’t know what makes women go into labor. We still can’t tell you how to cure stretch marks, we can’t tell you why some women develop complications with pregnancy that others do not. We find clues, we discover new ways to help, but we haven’t found the answer. Still, we keep looking; we pursue the things that evade our grasp.

I am grateful to those who in recent years researched if even a 90 second delay in cutting a newborn’s cord would actually make a difference in outcome for that baby? Through their efforts we discovered that what we thought we knew about clamping a newborn’s cord was not only wrong, but possibly harmful to a newborn.

From the work of many, we understand that after a baby is born, the circulation in the baby and the umbilical cord begin to change. The pathways in the baby’s heart change quickly from fetal circulation to newborn circulation. During the first few minutes after birth the vessel taking blood from the placenta to the baby allows the nutrient rich blood to ‘transfuse’ the baby, unless something clamps the cord and hinders the flow.

We used to think that waiting a few minutes to clamp the cord would increase the levels of jaundice in a newborn due to the increase in blood cells that would go to the newborn during those few minutes. High levels of jaundice could eventually lead to brain damage through a rare condition called ‘kernicterus’. For years birth attendants strove to protect the newborn from this by clamping the cord as soon as possible after birth. But as with many things, we are still learning. Thanks to the curiosity of a few, many babies can now benefit from the discovery that waiting for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing before we clamp it is actually filled with health benefits and this actually outweighs the risk of jaundice. One such benefit is the increase in iron that the newborn receives from the ‘extra’ blood cells. Iron is a necessary nutrient and a deficiency of iron we are now linking to decrease in cognitive function. So delaying the clamping of the cord may actually increase the baby’s cognitive function. The very thing we were trying to do by immediately clamping the cord. Around the globe, organizations are pushing to have this new research take hold and allow for a delay in clamping the cord. (http://www.who.int/elena/titles/cord_clamping/en/) Education is never complete but a continual journey, an upward climb to discover more! Oh that we may remain humble to search out the vast mysteries and be willing to change our practice as we learn more of the incredible creation of the human body.

Ninety seconds is such a short time, yet can be of such importance.