Delayed cord clamping, what’s it all about?
It is becoming increasingly popular to delay cord clamping. Yesterday in my hypnobirthing class I was asked what the benefits were, and although I did it with both my children, and had researched why, I wasn’t confident that the information I was giving was accurate, so I have done a little more research.
In the western world, it has been common practise to clamp and cut the umbilical cord immediately after birth, allowing medical staff to manage the third stage of labour – unless there are special circumstances, there is no need for the third stage of labour to be managed medically.
What does it mean?
With delayed cord clamping, when your baby is born you allow the umbilical cord to remain attached to the placenta for 4-10 minutes until it has stopped pulsating. The blood in the cord and the placenta is actually your baby’s and makes up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the volume of his or her blood. To allow the cord to stop pulsating means that this blood can enter your baby’s body, giving him or her an additional safeguard if they don’t breathe right away.
You can also wait until the placenta is delivered; each third stage surge pushes more blood into the baby from the placenta. Your baby’s blood will go to the vital organs that are now needed to give your baby the best start in life. Until now the lungs have not needed a large volume of blood, as your baby hasn’t had to breathe, if you delay cord clamping then the blood won’t be diverted from other parts of the body to the lungs.
Additionally, because your baby will have a larger volume of blood he or she will be at a lower risk of developing anaemia, and this in turn will make the transition from milk to solid food easier when it is time for weaning, as they will have two to three months more stored iron. Your baby is born with a store of iron, which enables them to be exclusively breastfed until they are weaned.
Some parents opt for a lotus birth, where they don’t cut the cord at all and allow it come away naturally from the baby after a period of 3-10 days (after treating it with salt and wrapping it in a bag).
If your baby is born by c-section you can still delay cord clamping, although routinely the cord is clamped and cut quickly after delivery. If you want to delay cord clamping in the c-section birth of your baby you will need to speak to your midwife or obstetric consultant to ensure this happens. For more information on delayed clamping with a c-section you can look here.
There are some studies that show that a baby may develop a higher level of jaundice if the cord clamping is delayed, but there is no evidence of adverse effects from this mild jaundice. In fact as Sarah Buckley states, jaundice, which is present in almost all human infants to some extent, and which is often prolonged by breastfeeding, may be beneficial because of its powerful anti-oxidant properties.
So the options you have for the umbilical cord are:
Immediate cord clamping and cutting,
Clamping the cord only when the cord has stopped pulsating, normally between 4-10 minutes,
Delaying the cord clamping until the placenta has been delivered,
Opting for a lotus birth.
I hope this information helps you to make the decision for you and your baby.