Before birth, a baby’s lungs are filled with fluid and very little oxygen flows through them. Instead, it receives oxygen through the placenta and umbilical cord. When an infant is born, a burst of oxygen-rich blood is delivered to him or her by a pulsation of the placenta and umbilical cord until its lungs are working and supplying oxygen on their own. This surge of blood is necessary in order for the newborn’s lungs to adequately expand and supply the brain with the oxygen it needs. Without it, the baby’s lungs fail to function adequately, causing his or her blood pressure to drop. This in turn can lead to oxygen deprivation and result in lung and brain damage.
In as little as 5 minutes after birth, the umbilical cord naturally begins to clamp, halting this blood flow. The common practice of hospitals, however, is to immediately place a clamp on the cord, usually within 1 minute, and often within 30 seconds, following the baby’s birth. This deprives the baby of a continuous source of oxygen until the lungs begin functioning properly. In addition to injuring the baby’s lungs, this lack of oxygen can cause serious brain damage, leading to birth injuries such as cerebral palsy, autism, learning disorders and mental deficiency.