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Name: Heather
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Date: March 2008

Question:
Can a newborn baby just born breathe under water just right after birth without the umbilical cord attached?



Replies:
While I can't explain all of the biology behind it, I do know that newborns do not breathe in the water if they are born underwater since they are going from a liquid environment to a liquid environment. They will still receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. However, they cannot stay underwater long, they do need to come up shortly after birth. The newborn will not take that first deep breathe until it hits the air.

Grace Fields


Babies never "breathe under water". Breathing is about providing a means for exchanging gases with the environment through the lungs . When the baby is in utero the gases are exchanged through the umbilical cord and the mother's lungs exhale them. During pregnancy, the heart's blood vessels actually bypass the lungs. Normally blood would leave the right side of the heart through the pulmonary artery and then go to the lungs to pick up oxygen and drop off CO2. It then returns to the left side of the heart through the pulmonary veins, which then pumps the oxygenated blood to the body through the aorta. In fetuses, there is a shunt, called the ductus arteriosus, that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta, thereby bypassing the lungs. At birth this shunt is supposed to close. Sometimes it doesn't, and needs to be surgically closed. The baby now needs to obtain gases through its own lungs. Once the umbilical cord is cut, the baby is no longer getting gases from mom. So, at this point, if you deprived the baby of oxygen, it would smother.

Van Hoeck



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