Delayed Cord Clamping

One question parents are usually asked in their birth process is “Do you want delayed cord clamping?”  There may be a few what’s and why’s running through your head right now so let’s clear them up.

What is it?

The umbilical cord, which is attached from the baby to the placenta, transfers blood between mom and baby, brings nutrients and oxygen to baby, and carries away waste. When baby is born and takes its first breath, the cord keeps pulsing, infusing baby with blood. The baby can receive up to 80-100 ml of blood while the cord still pulses. The cord can continue to pulse for 3-5 minutes while baby transitions to life outside the womb. Isn’t that amazing?!

Shortly after birth, the cord is then clamped and cut, separating the link between mother and baby for the first time. Delayed cord clamping is the action of waiting for seconds to minutes to clamp and cut the umbilical cord after baby is born. Some providers will delay the clamping until the cord stops pulsing completely, others will clamp and cut the cord before it stops pulsing. There may be circumstances when the provider cannot facilitate delayed cord clamping due to medical concerns with the baby or mother. If such is the case, the umbilical cord would be clamped and cut immediately.

Why do it?

New guidelines published by the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology  earlier this month, advised that cutting the umbilical cord should be delayed for 30-60 seconds when possible, providing many positive benefits for both full term and preterm infants. In full term infants, some of the benefits include an increase in oxygen carrying cells and boosts in iron stores for the first few months which can have a positive effect on the baby’s development. For preterm infant, that boost of blood from delayed cord clamping improves their circulation, boosts their red blood cell volume, decreases the need for a blood transfusion, and lowers the cases of a devastating bowel disease and brain hemorrhage.

How does it affect cord blood banking?

Cord blood collection for banking or donation can still be accomplished with delayed cord clamping. The provider is informed of the parents desire to do both, they should be able to delay the clamping and cutting of the cord for a short time, and then collect the sample needed before the cord stops pulsing completely. There is a chance if both delayed cord clamping and cord blood banking are chosen that there may not be enough cells in the sample for banking.

What does it mean for you?

Delayed cord clamping is an option available at birth and has positive effects on your newborn. Talk to your provider about the benefits of delayed cord clamping and how it is supported in your birth facility.

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