AIMS' Response to Hull Daily Mail about their article, "Dad saves baby girl's life with shoelace as mum gives birth in Beverley Road bus stop"

AIMS has responded to the Hull Daily Mail's article entitled, "https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/health/baby-born-bus-stop-shoelace-3571474".

26 November 2019

Dear Editor,

I am writing with regard to the recent article with the headline, "Dad saves baby girl's life with shoelace as mum gives birth in Beverley Road bus stop". (https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/health/baby-born-bus-stop-shoelace-3571474) We hope that you will print this response to the article.

While as a news outlet we recognise that you are simply repeating the story provided to you by the parents, it is also imperative, when you publish stories related to healthcare issues, that the information you publish is accurate, and would cause no harm. Unfortunately, in this case, the information that other parents will gain from the article could lead to significant harm to their baby if they were to do the same thing as these parents (who, of course, did the best they could in the moment).

When a baby is first born, and before the placenta has been born, the baby will be receiving oxygen through the umbilical cord. It is imperative that this is not cut or tied until the baby is breathing well as oxygen that that they are getting from the cord would be cut off. In addition to providing oxygen, the cord still needs to transfer the full amount of the baby's blood from the placenta to the baby. Parents should be advised to not cut or tie the cord until it has changed from thick, chunky and dark to thin and white. This change indicates that the baby's blood has transferred fully from the placenta to the baby, which is important as about a third of a baby's blood is still in the placenta at birth. This process can take anything from a couple of minutes to an hour.

A baby being born with the cord round their neck will need the cord to be gently untangled, but this is not the emergency it is often portrayed as being as the baby isn't breathing through their airway immediately. There is no need to cut the cord to do this, and doing so will simply remove the oxygen that the baby is still getting, making it suddenly imperative that they can breathe immediately. In contrast, there is a minute or two in hand if the cord is still intact.

Cutting the cord too early, without it being clamped or tied properly, could lead to a very serious bleed for the baby, and as shoelaces are inherently dirty, they can be a source of infection through the cord into the baby’s bloodstream.

When a birth happens unexpectedly without medical support, it is important to keep mother and baby warm and comfortable. If at all possible, try to support the mother to hold her baby skin to skin, chest to chest, with a blanket, towel or something else like a jacket over the top to keep them both warm. Don’t pull on the cord, even if the placenta doesn’t come out – it can take over an hour to arrive. If possible, a bowl is helpful to collect the placenta and keep it ready for the midwives to check.

Please note that there is a national campaign to re-train ambulance staff and 999 responders to not suggest tying the cord with a shoelace as this is now recognised as dangerous practice.

For more information, please visit the optimal cord clamping website: https://www.waitforwhite.com/

Thank you for considering this letter, and please do not hesitate to contact me for more information. You can reach me on 07967 569282, or emma.ashworth@aims.org.uk.

Yours faithfully,
Emma Ashworth
on behalf of AIMS, The Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services

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