Why Are You Cutting My Umbilical Cord?


I’m reading The Facts of Life by R.D. Laing from 1976. You can read more about Laing in Wikipedia, but I’m not so much interested here in his biography as in the state of him mind. He died in 1989 at the age of 62. He was a character, that’s for sure. Most of his work is highly critical of psychiatry, his chosen profession. I have and have read many of his books. He was a scientist but he assuredly dabbled in psychotropic drugs and allowed himself some very unscientific musings like this:

“I am impressed by the fact that “I” was once placenta, umbilical cord, and fetus.

Many people seem to confuse the placenta with the uterus. The placenta, amniotic sack, umbilical cord (and all the fetal “membranes”) are cellularily, biologically, physically, genetically, me. Similarly for all the rest of me I left behind in the womb, or was cut off from forever when my umbilical cord was cut.

It seems to me more than likely that many of us are suffering lasting effects from our umbilical cord being cut too soon.

Is it necessary to cut them off at all?

If one waits, it withers away “of its own accord.” What’s the harm in waiting? It has been suggested that we may lose 30 percent of the blood we would have if our cord and placenta, together with the circulatory system connected with them in us, were allowed to phase itself out naturally. Since it does do so naturally, why interfere with the natural course of events?

If all goes well, there seems to be no risk involved to the life of mother or child in not clamping and cutting the cord, at least before it has stopped pulsating.

Under such happy circumstances, not cutting the cord does not seem in the least to affect adversely the onset of breathing. In fact, I suspect that usually, in normal circumstances, breathing and the rhythm of the heart are greatly disturbed, perhaps for life, by clamping (throttling) the umbilical cord and then cutting it, while it and the placenta are still fully functionally us

                        comparable to the guillotine?

                                    strangulation?”*

So, do we sever the umbilical cord as a convenience to the medical staff present so they can get on with other duties? Why do we cut and rush the process? Was (is) there any thought given to the effects of these seemingly simple, harmless processes on the rest of a person’s life? Why are we so impatient? 

*From: R.D. Laing, TheFacts of Life: An Essay in Feelings, Facts, and Fantasy, 1976 Pantheon Books.

3 thoughts on “Why Are You Cutting My Umbilical Cord?

  1. Roger, I was very fortunate to give birth under the care of an exceptionally skilled physician and surgeon for my last three births, as I wrote in my book. Jack Pickup was well known for his particular skill delivering babies. He did things as the midwives did, but also know what to do from a doctor’s perspective in case of emergency. When it came to the deliveries of our sons, I had complete faith in him. I have never thought to question the practice of cutting the umbilical cord. One concern stated in articles I have just read on this topic is bleeding of the mother. I do know one thing – my mother hemorrhaged after I was born and three specialists were called in to try to stop the bleeding. If was touch and go for mom. Our family was fortunate that mom stopped bleeding and all was well. Here is a cut and pasted section from an article I just looked up. (I know that Dr. Pickup was never in too much hurry, even in the middle of the night. He would wait a few minutes if he knew it was best for the mom and baby. I think a lot of this is up to the judgement case by case, as no two cases (or women and babies) are the same.

    Here is the quote:. https://www.babycenter.com/404_what-are-the-benefits-of-waiting-to-clamp-a-babys-umbilical_10402183.bc

    If you have a full-term vaginal delivery and there are no complications, your baby can be lifted onto your belly and covered with a warm blanket as soon as he comes out.

    It’s at this point that the cord is usually clamped and cut, but in most cases, it doesn’t have to be. If left alone, the cord will continue to pulse for a few minutes as blood flows from the placenta to the baby.

    During this time, your uterus should begin to contract again so you can deliver the placenta. Once the placenta is delivered, your caregiver (or your partner) could clamp and cut the cord.

    If your uterus doesn’t contract on its own, your caregiver may give you a shot of Pitocin to stimulate contractions. In this case, the cord may need to be clamped and cut sooner. But a delay of even a minute or two is likely enough time for most of the blood to flow to your baby.

    Even if your newborn is born by caesarean section, some hospitals will allow a delay of at least a minute before cord clamping.

    There’s one possible downside: If your baby gets jaundice after a delayed cord clamping, he may be slightly more likely to need treatment with UV lamps to recover from it. Jaundice is common in newborns and usually gets better without any special treatment.

    Hide sources
    ACOG. 2012. Committee opinion 543. Timing of umbilical cord clamping after birth. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Timing-of-Umbilical-Cord-Clamping-After-Birth [Accessed October 2016]

    McDonald SJ, et al. 2013. Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping of term infants on mother and baby outcomes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7):CD004074. http://www.cochrane.org/CD004074/PREG_effect-timing-umbilical-cord-clamping-term-infants-mother-and-baby-outcomes [Accessed October 2016]

    Philip AGS, et al. 2004. When should we clamp the umbilical cord? NeoReviews 5(4):e131-3. http://neoreviews.aappublications.org/content/5/4/e142 [Accessed October 2016]

    Raju TNK, et al. 2012. Optimal timing for clamping the umbilical cord after birth. Clinics in Perinatology 39(4):889-900. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835342/ [Accessed October 2016]

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    1. Yes, Jack. I guess there’s some reason to be moderately optimistic. Some of the ways that humans have mutilated their bodies by genital mutilation, tattooing, scarification, trepanning, etc., for cultural reasons have been pretty gross. Many of those practices have abated somewhat but many still exist. Gar is a practice among Nilotics in Africa whereby boys entering puberty have their foreheads cut in lines to the bone starting in the middle and moving towards to sides. Usually there are 4 or 5 lines. They bleed like hell of course. If the boys cry or flinch even they are considered too wimpy to be men. I’m glad I’m not Nuer or Dinka.

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