Delayed Cord Clamping


Delayed cord clamping is the latest trend of the day. Many parents are adding it on to their birth plans. Some parents may have questions and wonder about this “new trend”. Before adding this on to your birth plan here’s a quick break down of what happens.

What is Delayed Cord Clamping?

Unless you’re planning a lotus birth (which is where the placenta and baby are both left attached to each other until they naturally separate) the umbilical cord is generally clamped and cut within 30 seconds (this is known as immediate clamping). The doctor will clamp and generally the father of the baby or partner of the mother gets to cut the umbilical cord. 

Delayed cord clamping is the process of waiting anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes to clamp and cut the umbilical cord off.  There has been a shift in practice from clamping immediately to now prolonging the clamp time. Several organizations support delayed cord clamping including the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the American College of Nurse–Midwives. Some parents may wonder if this is the right thing to do and what are the benefits of this “new trend”. 

The Benefits 

Several benefits are present for both term and preterm babies. For term babies delayed cord clamping is associated with increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores in the first several months of life, this can reduce the risk of anemia. For the preterm baby benefits include improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and intraventricular hemorrhage. All of which may lead to favorable effect on developmental outcomes.

The Risk

There are possible risks involve with delayed cord clamping: hyperbilirubinemia, polycythemia, and respiratory distress. Hyperbilirubinemia, which is too much bilirubin in the body cause by a breakdown of excess red blood cells in the body, leads to a yellow tint in the skin called jaundice. Delayed cord clamping has been linked to hyperbilirubinemia but as long as the baby is in a place to receive treatment the benefit far outweighs this risk. Polycythemia and respiratory distress are both proposed risk both have not yet been directly linked delayed cord clamping. 


What’s the bottom line?

Should you add delayed cord clamping as one of your wishes? Research shows that delayed cord clamping is beneficial.  Just like pregnancy every birth is unique. There may be circumstances preventing delayed cord clamping. During the birthing process something could go wrong leading towards immediate clamping. Talking with your health care provider can help you make the right decisions for your family.

Marie Mathurin Certified Nurse Midwife

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