Common Obstetrical Procedures and Their Link to Autism - Umbilical Cord Clamping

Author // Jeanne Ohm, DC

Article Index
Common Obstetrical Procedures and Their Link to Autism
Mercury in Pregnancy
Restricted Maternal Position
Umbilical Cord Clamping
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Umbilical Cord Clamping

It is common obstetrical practice to cut and clamp the umbilical cord immediately after birth because over the last 20 years doctors have mistakenly believed this could reduce the risk of mothers bleeding to death. During this time, the cord is still pulsating, bringing all of the placenta blood to the baby. Cutting the cord before it stops pulsating can result in as much as a 40% decrease in blood volume and can lead to anemia. This anemia is proportional to the degree of childhood mental retardation.

David Hutchon, consultant obstetrician at Darlington Memorial Hospital who has studied the effects of cord clamping said, “Babies are being put at risk by clamping the cord too quickly.” He also said, “In susceptible infants, early cord clamping and the lack of blood to the baby increases the risk of brain hemorrhage and breathing problems. This could help explain the rise in autism. Why are we doing it?”

When a cord clamp is not used, the child receives a large transfusion of placental blood, after which the cord vessels close naturally. With natural, physiological cord closure, the child receives enough blood and enough iron to prevent anemia for the first year of life, and enough blood volume to prevent ischemic encephalopathy and mental retardation for the rest of his or her life.

In a letter to the British Medical Journal, obstetrician and author, George Malcom Morley writes, “I therefore conclude that Immediate Cord Clamping, especially when imposed on existing birth asphyxia, can cause mental impairment without obvious neurological impairment, and therefore may well be a significant contributory cause of the current autism epidemic.”

As with all obstetric interventions mentioned so far, early cord clamping is yet another that needs careful, unbiased examination. It is time that normal physiology is considered and the perpetuation of these routine interventions is weighed against very real risk factors associated with their use.


The importance of natural birthing cannot be underestimated in the future of our children’s health. Under the medical leadership of Mayer Eisenstein, MD, JD, MPH, doctors with Homefirst Health Services in the metropolitan Chicago area have delivered more than 15,000 babies at home. “We don’t have a single case of autism in an unvaccinated child,” said Eisenstein. The International Cesarean Awareness Network, (ICAN) advises: “Interview your care providers like your life depended on it. In order to have a healthy birth, trust is essential in a relationship. If your care provider gives you outlandish risk assessments or impossible criteria…then you know to go elsewhere because that physician isn’t giving you adequate information or choices that apply to healthy birthing women. Know your options. Explore midwives, homebirth, CNMs, OBs, family practitioners, and birth centers. Birth is not only in hospitals and not only with obstetricians. Remember that starting with low risk care and being assessed properly often encourages moms to stay low risk.”

Pregnancy and birth need our respect—not our intervention. We can no longer rely on failing systems, organizations, or authorities to determine our birth outcome. More and more mothers are committed to finding providers during pregnancy who support and encourage the natural process of birth. This team of providers include midwives, doulas, holistic obstetricians, doctors of chiropractic, massage therapists, naturopaths, and practitioners of Chinese medicine to name a few. Their invaluable services are helping us regain trust in our inherent ability to function and be well.

Pathways Issue 21 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #21.

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