Having a baby is a lot more complicated than it seems. Between the time you find out your are pregnant until the time you bring your new baby home, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made. 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 break down 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 of the blood that is being held by the placenta remains in the placenta and is later disposed. 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 birth.
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. By immediately clamping the umbilical cord, you are leaving 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 babies. 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 on an assessment of fine motor skills and social skills than those children whose cords were clamped immediately.
In premature babies, delayed cord clamping may reduce the need for blood transfusions and improve circulation. It also helps lower the risk of bleeding in the brain and necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease that affects a small percentage of premature babies.
Are there any risks?
There is a risk for a small increase in jaundice that may require phototherapy in full-term infants. Further, if the mother or infant is in immediate need of medical intervention (hemorrhaging or infant resuscitation), immediate cord clamping should be considered. However, there are no studies to suggest that there are any other known risks involved with delayed cord clamping.
In fact, 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 had this discussion with your doctor or midwife, be sure to 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.