Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cord Blood AND Resuscitation (when necessary)

Right now is seems we are at, or approaching, a tipping point in Obstetric Care.

Even as a natural birth advocate, or a "quacktivist" as some may call me, I go out of my way to acknowledge the value in the care provided by doctors and nurses in hospital births.  I know that they prevent emergencies, I know that they save lives. I know that they are miracle workers at times.  I know that there are often wonderful people behind those blue drapes and plastic masks, however sterile and impersonal they may appear. Having worked and observed in many hospitals, however, I also know that they are human beings, creatures of habit, limited by their training and the hospitals policies and protocol.  I know that some reflexively push interventions and drugs even when they are not medically indicated, that malpractice suits have changed the way they perceive risk, and that they are all bound by the limitations of the tools and equipment that they are provided with.
I have struggled many times with one particular protocol in hospitals spanning the Puget Sound region, which is a fairly progressive and extremely highly technological area.  When a baby is born, who may (or may not) require some assistance breathing, the policy and protocol have been to cut the cord immediately (according to the article below, the average time elapsed prior to cutting the cord in obstetrics is 17 seconds) and often move the baby away from his or her mother to provide suction, oxygen, and rarely, varying degrees of resuscitation efforts.
Because we know that all of the blood in the cord and the placenta belong to the baby and breathing requires blood supply to the lungs, and because we know that babies respond to the cues given by a mothers body, to regulate respiration, body temperature and many other functions, part of my job is to ask the following question, even though I know the answer, to at least plant a seed.
"The family wants to delay cord clamping, can you bring the table close to the mother and provide care?"
The answer has always been "No".
When pressed the explanations have been:
The vacuum tube (for suction) won't reach
The outlet (for the heat lamp) is over there/cords won't reach
The O2 is in that wall (across the room)
There is no room for the baby on or near the delivery bed
There is no room for the NICU staff at the bedside
There is not a firm enough surface to perform resuscitation

Current policies are all about provider convenience and birth suite geography.
The focus needs to be on the baby.  Please see here, as the legendary Penny Simkin explains why Delayed Cord Clamping and Cutting are so critical, ESPECIALLY when the baby is in need of some support.

I am thrilled to share that someone has created a new tool, called the B.A.S.I.C.S. Trolley, another invention I've had bouncing around in my head that I never acted upon. Click to learn more.  The first article suggested that this trolley is "spreading like wildfire", though I have yet to see one in a birth suite.  I am hopeful however, that the invention will further tip the movement, so that eventually "premature cord clamping and cutting" will be part of our obstetric history and we won't have to fight, or even ask to delay it.  A doctor once told me that "at the time of birth, each new life is in the balance." Meaning, they have to come out and breath. Babies deserve every opportunity to thrive. There are many reasons why a baby might come out and struggle a bit.  Meconium aspiration, exposure to the epidural medications, shock, etc.  Parents deserve to know that if their child is in need of support, even resuscitation, that every possible advantage is offered.  We should not have to choose between Cord Blood and Resuscitation when the science is there to prove that clearly, both are beneficial, and sometimes both are critically necessary.

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