About the placenta, cord and baby
- An attached placenta with pulsating cord is a functioning organ.
- The transfer of fetal blood from the placenta to the baby, via the umbilical cord, is part of the physiology and anatomy of birth.
- Placental circulation and transfusion at birth provides the increase in blood volume for the fetal-to-neonatal transition.
- The increase in blood volume is needed for clearing liquid from the lungs, perfusing and expanding the lungs tissue, and catering to the increased organ demands of extrauterine life.
- Placental transfusion provides essential life support during the fetal-to-neonatal transition:
-the perfusion and supply of oxygenated blood supports premature babies, babies born with low oxygen/blood levels at birth (due to cord compression, birth hypoxia, tight nuchal cords etc) and improves the outcomes for babies born via cesarean section .
- The baby receives an infusion of red blood cells, stem cells and immune cells from the placenta (from the placental transfusion):
- the highest number of stem cells circulating our bodies occurs at birth (unless the cord is clamped).
- stem cells have miraculous healing properties and can specialise into multiple types of cells as needed in the body.
- stem cell research is limited - a decision to clamp, collect and store stem cells (harvesting) should consider the risks (known and unknown) of disrupting the birth process and depriving human beings their own stem cells at birth;
- the infusion of blood confers improved red blood cell count and iron stores;
- red blood cells have a critical role in transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body;
- the amount of iron stored in the baby’s body from physiological placental transfusion is for making new blood in the first six months of life – low iron can cause infant anaemia (which is associated with cognitive deficits and other health issues).
Mercer, J., Skovgaard, R. & Erickson-Owens, D. “Fetal to neonatal transition: first, do no harm“, Normal Childbirth: Evidence and Debate second edition (2008) edited by Downe, S. pp149-174