You’ve likely seen it in moves, or even in the delivery room during the birth of your children: deep breaths, a few strong pushes, baby makes its debut, and then the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. For years, umbilical cords have been clamped and cut as soon as possible, but recent research shows waiting a minute to clamp that cord might be beneficial for your newborn.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently added to its guidelines a recommendation to delay umbilical cord clamping in infants for 30 to 60 seconds after birth, if waiting is possible. Before, the recommendation was clamping immediately following birth to minimize the risk of potentially severe bleeding in the mother. New research shows this might not be necessary.
Delayed Clamping Can Benefit Infants
As it turns out, delaying cord clamping for 30 to 60 seconds allows extra placental blood to flow from the mother to the baby, sending nutrient-rich material that newborns need to the infant in the first seconds of its life. This extra blood flow has shown to decrease the risk of newborn anemia and iron deficiency without increasing risks to the mother when cord clamping is delayed. This boost of nutrients can be especially important when you consider that iron deficiency is believed to be a cause associated with impaired motor, behavioral and cognitive development as your baby grows.
Good for Preterm and Term Infants
This practice has shown to be the most beneficial in premature infants, but increased benefits have been found in term infants as well.
Delaying umbilical cord clamping in preterm infants has resulted in better circulation, improved red blood cell volume and a decrease in the need for blood transfusions. It has helped to lower the number of brain hemorrhages recorded and lower an intestinal disease commonly found in preterm infants called necrotizing enterocolitis.
In term infants, delayed umbilical cord clamping has shown to be behind an increase in hemoglobin levels and iron. The only potential drawback in delayed cord clamping is that it could hinder efforts for cord blood banking. Delaying clamping of the cord can decrease the amount of cord blood your medical team can take for banking, but the ACOG believes that the benefits of delayed clamping in most cases outweigh the need for cord blood later in life.
If you have any questions about delayed clamping, or think that it might be the right path for your birth plan, talk with your obstetrician.
Dr. Kathy Sander is a board-certified OB/GYN specialist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Woman’s Center. Her clinical interests include general and high risk obstetrics, treatment of menstrual problems, preconception counseling, contraceptive options including Implanon, Mirena IUDs, Essure, Nuvaring and oral contraceptives, and treatment of menopausal concerns. She offers delayed cord cutting as an option for her patients.