Newborn after Birth and Breathing
Date: March 2008
Can a newborn baby just born breathe under water just
right after birth without the umbilical cord attached?
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.
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.
Click here to return to the General Topics Archives
Update: June 2012