Delayed Cord Clamping: A Guide to Research and Options
There has been a lot of buzz going around the parenting world lately about the practice of delayed cord clamping, with expecting mothers asking questions like what is it, what are the benefits, and how will it affect my child down the road?
Though the conversation has been happening for many years, a study published by JAMA Pediatrics sparked even more interest in the subject after reporting that the fine motor and social skills of 4-year-olds improved in children who underwent delayed cord clamping during childbirth.
Enhanced neurodevelopment? Potential health benefits? A smarter baby? Mommies-to-be everywhere are saying sign me up!
While it seems like a simple answer, it is important to fully understand what it is exactly you are signing up for. That’s why we wanted to give you everything you need to know about delayed cord clamping in one place: the what, the how, and most importantly, the why.
What is Delayed Cord Clamping?
Delayed cord clamping is the practice of waiting to clamp and cut a newborn baby’s umbilical cord, as opposed to almost immediately clamping, as is common. The extent of the delay can vary, depending on the wishes of the family and medical team.
How Long Should You Wait Before Clamping Umbilical Cord?
Studies show that only 80 ml of blood is transferred from the placenta in the first minute following birth, while 115 ml are supplied after three minutes. Halting blood flow too early reduces the total supply of blood to a newborn and decreases the amount of iron intake, while waiting longer than 3 minutes offers no additional benefit to the baby.
Instead of cutting the cord directly after birth, you can ask your doctor to wait until your baby has received the maximum amount of stem cells and oxygenated blood from the placenta.
Why Delayed Cord Clamping?
“There is growing evidence from a number of studies that all infants, those born at term and those born early, benefit from receiving extra blood from the placenta at birth. The extra blood at birth helps the baby to cope better with the transition from life in the womb.”
— Dr. Heike Rabe
While the evidence in support of delayed cord clamping increases, so does the evidence against immediate cord clamping, which can actually be detrimental to the baby. Research shows that clamping too soon disrupts the natural birth process and prematurely disconnects the baby from the placenta, which is still circulating blood to the newborn.
Benefits of Delayed Clamping
The benefits of delayed cord clamping to your baby include:
- lower frequency of iron deficiency anemia
- reduced need for blood transfusion
- higher blood volume
- neurodevelopment may be enhanced (JAMA Pediatrics)
Delayed Cord Clamping has many potential benefits for newborns. You should discuss if delayed cord clamping is right for you and your baby with your midwife or doctor.
Delayed Cord Clamping and Cord Blood Banking
Many delayed cord clamping supporters will say that you can not do both delayed cord clamping and cord blood banking. However, there is approximately 200 milliliters (mL) of blood in the placenta and umbilical cord. A minimum of 50 mL that is needed for cord blood storage. Delayed cord clamping is recommended to last between one and three minutes, according to the World Health Organization. This transfers about 80-100 mL of blood into the baby. This leaves an ample amount of blood left to allow for cord blood collection.
- “Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping May Benefit Children Years Later”, Shots (Health New from NPR), May 26 2015
- “Timing of Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth”, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Reaffirmed 2014
- “Effect of Delayed Cord Clamping on Neurodevelopment at 4 Years of Age”, JAMA Pediatrics, May 26 2015
- “Kids’ motor and social skills improve when cord clamping delayed at birth” CBC News, May 26 2015
- “Delaying umbilical cord clamping may improve child’s development”, Medical News Today, May 29 2015
- “Guideline: Delayed umbilical cord clamping for improved maternal and infant health and nutrition outcomes”, World Health Organization, September 28 2016
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