Cord clamping refers to putting clamps the umbilical cord so it can be cut after baby is born. In low risk childbirth, immediate cord clamping is an outdated procedure that makes baby miss out on important health benefits. While many hospitals have already updated their standard practices to modern standards, many still haven’t! You can delay cord clamping at birth if you say that in your birth plan.
When your baby is born, many hospitals and doctors spring to standard routines. They clamp the still-pulsing umbilical cord then cut it. Baby is officially a separate person.
But in the rush, your baby lost the awesome stuff pulsing through the umbilical cord – additional oxygenated blood, iron, and stem cells. Babies are born with about two-thirds their total blood supply so their passage from inside to outside is easier. Letting the cord pulse until it stops means your baby gets that extra portion of blood. For any baby that’s important; for preterm babies, that’s huge.
Studies show that 30-50% of your baby’s blood volume is still being pumped from the placenta to baby at birth. By three minutes later, baby has received up to 100mL extra oxygen-rich blood . Given that many preemies have partially-developed lungs, having as much oxygen as possible is very valuable for them.
So why rush to clamp? Clamping the cord at birth is important if your new baby needs resuscitation. In the hospital, your resuscitation team needs to take your baby across the room to the emergency equipment and place him on a warming bed. Of course, that means cutting the cord. You can acknowledge this unique circumstance in your birth plan.
SOME MIDWIVES DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY
At home, some midwives have been trained to bring a flat surface to the baby in mom’s arms and keep the pulsing cord attached while they resuscitate baby. Some hospitals have begun using the LifeStart resuscitation bed, which allows for the cord to stay attached to the placenta, and for baby stay with mom.
Low risk babies do not need to have their cord clamped and cut at all. In some cultures it’s normal to leave the cord attached until it naturally falls off. This is called a “Lotus Birth.”
So, why not give baby as much of the iron and stem cell rich blood as possible? Some busy hospitals and doctors clamp immediately as a matter of routine because it is easier and faster. The value of delayed cord clamping may not have been known when those facilities originally set up their procedures and protocols.
Another argument for immediate cord clamping is, if you leave the cord intact and baby gets that rich placental elixir, those extra red blood cells could cause newborn jaundice.
True! Because newborn jaundice is caused by breaking down extra red blood cells. Jaundice is very common, especially in preemies and breastfed babies. Most of the time it doesn’t require any extra treatment except a little more sunshine,. You can ask your pediatrician to tell you the signs of newborn jaundice.
Your birth plan can say – in the absence of an emergency – you want to delay cord clamping until the cord has stopped pulsing. And, you can contact your local hospital to find out if they have the LifeStart resuscitation bed or a similar device or practice.
MANY STUDIES SHOWED REMARKABLE BENEFITS
From a scientific point of view, experts still don’t know the best amount of time to wait before cutting the cord. Delayed cord clamping (as little as 30 seconds) reduces the need for blood transfusions and prevents anemia, low blood pressure, and intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) – bleeding into the brain. Preterm male babies are especially susceptible to IVH. Research shows that low birth-weight male babies whose cord clamping was delayed also had improved motor skill development.
The ideal time to wait is at least three minutes. If your birth plan says you want to wait until the cord stops pulsing, you’ll give your baby all the goodness they can get.
SCIENCE IS GREAT, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE EMOTIONAL BENEFITS?
Having immediate skin-to-skin contact at birth – with cord intact – gives you both a chance to rest together after your mighty efforts. Your baby has the warmth of your skin, the rhythm of your heartbeat, and the sound of your voice to soothe them. It helps you bond with your babe, to fall in love and commit to its wellbeing, which will last a lifetime.
When the copy of your birth plan in your hospital bag checklist tells birth attendants to delay cord clamping, it can be like packing a life preserver for baby into your hospital bag. That’s no small thing.
To learn more about your birth choices, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: September 6, 2015 | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert, Elizabeth Bachner, LM, CPM, L.Ac., Midwife | Last reviewed: September, 2015