When you’re pregnant, there’s plenty to think about. Not only do you have to know all about your pregnancy and birth options but you also have to make decisions for your baby almost as soon as she is born. It’s good to consider these options well before the birth so that you can make informed decisions about which procedures you do – or don’t – want. Here are the top 10. Then on the big day, you can simply enjoy meeting your new baby.
One: Cord Clamping
In the past, doctors would cut your baby’s cord within seconds of birth, before whisking your little one off to be checked over. Now, most recognise the benefits of putting the baby onto the mother’s chest, whilst allowing the cord to stop pulsing naturally.
Advocates say this allows precious blood and stem cells from the placenta to pass into the baby, helping prevent iron deficiency. You can even ask for delayed clamping if you choose to bank your baby’s stem cells.
Two: Cord Blood or Stem Cell Banking
Many parents consider banking their baby’s stem cells so that they might be used in the future should your child develop a serious condition. You might think of this like a health insurance policy – plus, stem cells can even be used for a sibling. There have been some great developments in stem cell treatment for conditions such as cancer, cerebral palsy, auto-immune diseases and arthritis. Blood from the placenta is harvested after the cord has been cut. Some hospitals have a system of collecting cord blood for research but be aware that even if yours does, you won’t be able to use those unless you have had some collected by a company that specialises in the storage of these cells.
Three: Skin to Skin
It’s been shown that there are huge benefits to both mummy and baby by allowing skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after birth – even if you have had a Caesarean. It makes it easier for your baby to regulate her own temperature and stress levels are lower. Babies seem better able to regulate their breathing, blood sugar levels and heart rate. Skin-to-skin also means that you can make a start on trying to get your baby to latch on for her first feed. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen immediately – you’ll both need some practice! She’ll also pick up beneficial bacteria from your skin.
Read more on the benefits of skin-to-skin
Four: Vitamin K
Vitamin K helps blood clot and because babies are born with low levels, they are more prone to bleeding. In the days when forceps was popular, doctors began to give this as an injection as a precaution, as forceps could potentially cause bleeding in the brain. Today there are concerns about Vitamin K as an injection, with some believing that it leaves an unnaturally high level in the baby’s blood – plus concerns about other substances in the solution. You can choose to refuse it, or have it as oral drops, though your baby will need a repeat dose.
Five: Cleaning Your Baby
Babies are quite mucky. They can be covered with vernix, a white, waxy substance that has coated them in the womb, in your blood and of course amniotic fluid. Generally speaking, it’s now felt to be best to put the baby straight onto the mother’s chest and then to cover them with a blanket, rather than trying to clean them at birth. You will also need to think about when to give your baby her first bath. Again, current thinking is that you are best advised to ‘top and tail’ your baby, just cleaning the head and nappy areas, as the vernix helps keep your baby’s skin from drying out and flaking. Many mummies leave the first bath for about a week now.
Unless your culture or religion would lead you to choose to have your baby boy circumcised (the removal of the foreskin), it is not often thought to be necessary medically and a non-essential operation of this kind can be avoided if you prefer. If there are specific medical reasons why your boy might need to be circumcised, they may not need it immediately and they can have the procedure at a later date.
Seven: Weighing and Measuring
Within an hour of your baby’s birth, most hospitals and birth professionals will want to weigh, measure and generally check over your baby. You can request that this be delayed until after the ‘golden hour’ – and indeed, some tests can be performed whilst you are still holding your baby, so don’t feel rushed. Weighing your baby means that your health professsionals can keep an eye on any weight loss (this happens naturally after birth but should then increase). Doctors will also check your baby’s head, eyes, reflexes, lungs, genitals, fingers and toes, hips and spine as well as the skin.
Read our feature on new baby checks online
We all want the best for our babies and breastfeeding is the best start. Your health team, especially your midwife, is your best friend here as they can help you get started – after all, babies don’t quite know what to do and if you’re a first time mummy, neither will you! That’s why it’s important to bond with your baby early on and to start trying to get your baby to latch on. Make sure you attend ante-natal classes where you can learn all sorts of helpful tips about feeding your baby and if you come across problems after the birth, seek out a lactation counsellor. In fact, it’s a good idea to have some phone numbers to hand before you go into labour.
Read our feature on ante-natal classes online at bbabymagazine.co.uk/ ante-natal-classes
Your baby will have their very first test quite early. The APGAR, named after doctor Virginia Apgar in 1952, is perfomed at one and ve minutes after birth and is a quick and simple way to assess your baby’s health. The criteria are: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration – your baby can score up to ten points. Poor skin colour, (Appearance) for example, might signal circulation problems but don’t worry if your baby doesn’t score a perfect 10 – few of these mean that she will have a health problem in future. Five to eight days after your baby’s birth, he will be given the ‘heel prick test’, where a few drops of blood are taken from your baby’s foot and tested for: Phenylketonuria (PKU), an enzyme de ciency, Cystic brosis, MCADD which affects conversion of fat to energy (rare), sickle cell disease, thyroid de ciency, Homocystinuria, Maple syrup urine disease, isovaleric acidaemia and glutaric aciduria type 1.
Ten: Hepatitis B Vaccine
This disease, spread through sexual contact, is tested for when you are pregnant. If infected, you’ll be offered a vaccine to protect your baby given
at birth and then at one, two and 12 months. Your baby will be tested to ensure they have not contracted Hep B. In some countries, all newborns are given the Hepatitis B vaccine but babies are unlikely to pick up the disease through the birth process.