A desperate mother is rushed into a hospital…
The most panic inducing Hollywood moment happens every few seasons of any binge-worthy doctor drama. A desperate mother is rushed into a hospital with only a few moments to go before immediately being encouraged to push. The following scene sets the audience and the characters up to believe that the trauma is over and that the parents can now just rest with their newborn and start fighting over names. But alas, the most terrifying sound is all the mother can focus on: absolute silence. The baby hasn’t cried and the mother is traumatized once more.
It is from this classic storyline trope that we learn that there is something important about that first cry in real life. Indeed, a baby crying once delivered is an indicator that they can breathe well, and it is useful for them to start stretching out and strengthening their lungs. However, it is not common knowledge that is totally normal for the baby not to immediately cry!
Another thing we think must happen within the first few moments to help the baby breathe is cutting their cord. Part of the reason that immediately clamping the umbilical cord started to be advocated for in the 1960s was because people were concerned that not doing so could cause the newborn respiratory distress. However, many organizations now, including ACNM (read more about ACNM’s position on delayed cord clamping) and WHO, recommend delayed clamping because of the proven health benefits for baby. Contrary to previous popular opinion, allowing for some time after birth for placental transfusion actually ensures “safe oxygen levels and blood volume” for the newborn.
If a baby is born into a warmly lit room, and given sufficient and extended skin-to-skin contact with their birth-person, the baby will feel more comfortable and can often stay pretty quiet within their first few moments in the world. That experience is something that a home-birth can much more easily provide to new families than a hospital birth. No one will be rushing to take the baby away for washing and measurements, or to prematurely clamp their cord, and you can avoid the bright fluorescent lights that can disturb the newborn by planning for a more warmly lit room. Your midwives will do all that they can to make sure that your baby’s first breath is a healthy and beautiful one.
Written by Gabrielle Cappelletti, the intern.