Having a baby is a lot more complicated than it seems. Many decisions need to be made from when you find out you are pregnant until you bring your new baby home. One of those decisions should be whether or not you want to practice delayed cord clamping. But what is it? And why would you want to choose it? Here’s a breakdown for you.
What is delayed cord clamping?
Delayed cord clamping is the prolongation of time between when your baby is born and when you, the father, or the doctor, clamps the umbilical cord. Typically, the umbilical cord is clamped 10 to 15 seconds after birth. When this happens, all the blood held by the placenta remains in the placenta and is later disposed of. However, delaying cord clamping from 1-5 minutes after birth allows the blood in the placenta to continue to flow to the newborn baby. This brings with it an array of health benefits.
What are the benefits?
Nearly 1/3 of a baby’s total blood volume resides in the placenta at birth. By 1 minute of age, half of that blood is transfused back into the baby’s body. By 3 minutes, 90% of the transfusion is complete. Babies whose blood has been allowed time to transfuse fully back into their bodies after birth have a smoother cardiopulmonary transition at birth1,2.
Another benefit of delayed cord clamping is stem cells. These play an essential role in the immune, respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems, among many other things. The concentration of stem cells in fetal blood is higher than at any other time in a child’s life. Immediately clamping the umbilical cord leaves nearly a third of those valuable stem cells in the placenta.
Further, studies have shown that delayed cord clamping increases hemoglobin and iron in full-term babies3. This can reduce the risk of anemia. Other studies have shown that children whose cords were clamped 3-4 minutes after birth scored slightly higher when assessing fine motor skills and social skills than those whose cords were clamped immediately4.
In premature babies, delayed cord clamping may reduce the need for blood transfusions and improve circulation. It also reduces the risk of bleeding in the brain and necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease that affects a small percentage of premature babies5.
Are there any risks?
There is a risk for a small increase in jaundice that may require phototherapy in full-term infants6. Further, immediate cord clamping should be considered if the mother or infant is in immediate need of medical intervention (hemorrhaging or infant resuscitation). However, no studies suggest any other known risks of delayed cord clamping.
The evidence of the benefits of delayed cord clamping is so compelling that most doctors are beginning to incorporate it into their practices. If you haven’t discussed this with your doctor or midwife, bring it up at your next visit. Adding delayed cord clamping to your birth plan is a decision that can benefit your sweet new bundle of joy for years to come.