Friday, March 19, 2010

Amniotic Fluid, Vernix, Breastfeeding - And Why the Default Option is Usually Best

Thanks to Kathy for posting this article!

This is a fascinating short article describing a study which has shown that vernix (the coating on a newborn baby's skin) and amniotic fluid have antimicrobial properties similar to those found in breastmilk, and thus are vital to preserving baby's health. Thus, modern childbirth procedures (i.e. sacred cows) such as routine artificial rupture of membranes and immediate cleaning of baby's skin are not only pointless, but harmful. Check out the article:


Here's a quote from the article:

"The results of this study also call into question the routine use of some newborn procedures. Early bathing of the baby removes vernix, which contains antimicrobial proteins that are active against group B. streptococcus and E. coli. Delaying the bath and keeping the newborn together with his or her mother until breastfeeding is established may prevent some cases of devastating infections caused by these bacteria. The fact that preterm babies tend to have more vernix than babies born at or after 40 weeks might mean that healthy, stable preterm babies derive even greater benefit from staying with their mothers during the immediate newborn period.

"Finally, this study illustrates how the normal physiology of pregnancy and fetal development is part of a continuum that extends beyond birth to the newborn period. The immunologic similarities between amniotic fluid, vernix, and breast milk provide further evidence that successful initiation of breastfeeding is a critical part of the process of normal birth."

This article illuminates what I have come to believe more and more: In absence of pathological conditions, the default is always best. In other words, God (or Nature, take your pick) knows what he is doing! If a natural bodily process or state exists, there is a reason for it and it ought to be left alone in the absence of a problem. In other words, intervention ought to be the exception rather than the rule. Examples:

- Episiotomy - can be important when done in an emergency; when done routinely causes many problems

- Premature cord clamping - Not only unnecessary, but harmful!

- Cesarean section - Life-saving when necessary; a major contributor to maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity when done routinely

- Induction - See comment on cesarean section.

In other words, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Every part of the childbirth process is uniquely orchestrated for the benefit of mother and child, and routinely interfering in that process can cause more problems than are solved. When truly necessary - sure! - but not as a matter of regular routine.


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