When giving birth, there are a lot of procedures and other items to keep in mind. Delayed cord clamping is one procedure to think about and an item to add to your birth plan, before the baby arrives. It has always been the norm to cut the cord immediately after the baby is born. Recently, studies and research have shown that delayed cord clamping may be more beneficial for mom and baby.
Knowing exactly the importance of the umbilical cord and placenta during pregnancy is important in understanding why delayed cord clamping brings so many benefits for mom and baby.
The placenta provides oxygen, water and nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy. It also removes carbon dioxide and other waste products through the mothers system for excretion. The placenta has been described as a pancake-shaped organ that attaches to the inside of the uterus and is connected to the fetus by the umbilical cord. The placenta produces estrogen and progesterone. The placenta also produces hCG. This hormone is what is tested for when you take a pregnancy test to determine if you are pregnant or not. The placenta is expelled from the uterus in a process called the after-birth.
The umbilical cord is what connects your baby to the placenta. The umbilical cord contains three vessels: two arteries and one vein. The two arteries carry blood from the baby to the placenta and the vein carries blood back to the baby. It can grow to be 60 cm long, allowing the baby enough cord to safely move around without causing damage to the cord or the placenta. After the baby is born, the cord is cut, which the father or partner may wish to do! The remaining section will heal and form the baby’s belly button. During pregnancy you may find out the umbilical cord is in a knot, or is wrapped around a part of your baby’s body.
Delayed cord clamping is when the umbilical cord is not clamped or cut until it has stopped pulsing or until the placenta has been delivered. The studies have shown that if clamping of the cord is delayed, then the newborn will receive 30% more of the fetal-placental blood volume compared to if the cord was clamped immediately after birth.
Allowing your newborn to receive that extra fetal-placental blood volume brings several benefits including a normal and healthy amount of blood so your newborn can transition into the world outside of the womb. It also provides stem cells, immune cells, and red blood cells.
Years ago the common practice was to immediately clamp and cut the umbilical cord after the birth of the newborn to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Years later, and after research, it was learned that cutting the umbilical cord immediately after the birth of the newborn had no effect on postpartum hemorrhaging. Although the research showed this, the practice was and is still standard today.
Research has shown that delayed cord clamping will allow greater neurodevelopment benefits, decreased risk of anemia, increased blood volume, and better outcomes for pre-term babies.
A common practice for breastfed babies is to supplement with iron. Breast milk is naturally low in iron and to make sure babies
don’t suffer or become ill, it is recommended to supplement with iron. Research and studies have shown that the natural transfusion of blood through the umbilical cord delivers a large amount of iron to the baby. Even waiting just a few minutes before clamping or cutting the umbilical cord can increase iron levels for the newborn substantially.
If a pre-term baby is delivered, there has been research and studies done to show that delaying cord clamping or cutting by just a few minutes allow pre-term babies to have a much better blood pressure a few days after birth. This means less drugs may need to be used, less transfusions may need to be done, and the overall time a pre-term baby may spend in the intensive care unit will be less.
Delayed cord clamping leaves the cord alone after birth and avoids disrupting the normal birth process. While the cord is pulsating, placental transfusion is supplying the baby with oxygen, nutrients and an increased blood volume to support the transition to life outside the womb.
Delayed cord clamping brings many benefits to the newborn baby including higher number of red blood cells, stem cells, and immune cells at birth. In premature or compromised babies, delayed cord clamping may provide essential life support, restore blood volume, and protect against organ damage, brain injury, and death.