*Note: what follows is strictly my opinion. I have no medical training, so what I say shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.
I tend to talk about birth a fair amount, so it wasn’t really a surprise that I found myself explaining why I chose to delay cord clamping and declined the vit K injection with my second child (I’d requested those with Kieran, but they didn’t heed my wishes about the cord clamping and we chose to do the vit K since it was an instrumental delivery with immediate cord clamping, but I digress).
Now, if you read the blog or all to me, you know that my general philosophy is to avoid interventions unless and until said intervention can be demonstrated to definitely help, and that the positives outweigh any negatives, for there are always positives and negatives. I tend to think that birth is best left well enough alone, with as few interventions as possible, in the majority of cases, thoug of course there are times when interventions are necessary and I am thankful for them being available in such cases. And I will note now that there are times when immediate clamping and vitamin K are necessary, such as in the case of placenta praevia, traumatic delivery, or perhaps if the child will be circumcised (leaving aside my views on routine circumcision for the moment), though I don’t feel they are necessary each and every time.
But back to delayed cord clamping and vit K. In the course of the conversation, it was mentioned that delayed cord clamping carried a higher rate of polycythemia in the baby. I’ll admit, I was unsure what this entailed, so I looked it up. I found that polycythemia is a condition whereby a person a higher red blood cell count. This increases the viscosity of the blood, thereby increasing the clotting factor of it. I know there can be other issues with polycythemia, which I will revisit in a moment.
When I read this part, though, a lightbulb immediately went off. See, vitamin K is given in order to facilitate clotting in the newborn, but is this necessary if the babe is receiving his full blood volume and getting that higher red blood cell count? Especially if immediate breastfeeding is practised, since vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin, is found in somewhat higher levels in colostrum and hindmilk? The mother eating foods rich in vitamin K would be sure to increase levels both in the cord blood and the milk, given that a study of Chinese women showed lower levels of vitamin K in cord blood and declared it was due to a nutritional deficiency. Now, I’ll also admit that I’ve seen a study declaring that vitamin K levels in colostrum and mature milk were not sufficient. The problems, in my opinion, with that study are the low sample size, and comparing vitamin k levels with nonhuman sources. Surely our bodies are not completely broken? Again, having the vitamin k for those who need it is a wonderful thing, as there are definite cases where it’s helpful and necessary, I am just questioning its routine use. From what I’ve seen, it seems that God’s design is simply amazing.
What of those other issues that can occur with polycythemia? A meta-analysis showed that, while there was an increase in polycythemia, it was benign and asymptomatic. To me, this shows that it is the normal way our bodies work, and in the absence of a problem, needn’t be addressed, but that’s just my opinion. Regardless, the more I learn about how our bodies naturally work, I’m amazed by God’s design. I can easily exclaim with the Psalmist that “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a).
Of course, this post isn’t intended to be a full account of all the pros and cons of delayed cord clamping and vitamin K, I just wanted to comment on this aspect. It is something that parents must research and determine what is the best decision in their circumstances.