A question that has recently been popping up again and again in pregnant women circles is about delayed cord clamping.
What is it? Does my baby need it? Do I need to ask for it? Should I do it?
Well stop asking and read on, here is a brief overview on the topic to help you on your way to deciding if this is something that you desire in your birth process!
What is delayed cord clamping?
Delayed cord clamping means that the umbilical cord (the vein and arteries that carry blood from mum’s placenta to the baby in utero) is clamped and cut more than one minute after the birth of the baby or when the pulse of the cord has stopped. Some people also believe in not cutting the cord at all, known as Lotus Birth. In Lotus Birth the baby remains attached to the placenta until it naturally dries and falls off at around 3 to 10 days following birth (Yes, that means you do need to transport your placenta around with your baby for a few days!)
Does my baby need it?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends delayed umbilical cord clamping (not earlier than 1 minute) for improved mother and baby health and better nutritional outcomes for your baby. Leaving the cord until it has stopped pulsing lets the baby receive more blood from mum. The WHO also note that delaying clamping the cord may improve iron levels in the baby for up to six months after the birth. Other studies have shown that babies that have delayed cord clamping have a higher number of red blood cells (that carry oxygen around the body), increased stem cells, and more immune cells at birth.
Do I need to ask for delayed cord clamping?
It is best to discuss your preferences for labour and delivery with your obstetrician or midwife prior to actually being in labour. As the World Health Organisation recommends delayed cord clamping, it is often automatically carried out by your practitioner. However, delayed cord clamping cannot be guaranteed by all individual practitioners so if you would like delayed cord clamping, make it a birth preference for your labour (See more on Baby Hints and Tips – Birth Plans).
Should I have delayed cord clamping for my birth?
The World Health Organisation does recommend delayed cord clamping, performed approximately 1-3 minutes after birth. As with most preferences in labour there are certain instances where delayed cord clamping cannot be performed. For example, if a baby is born prematurely or is unwell at birth then they may require extra oxygen support. For this reason the cord is often cut earlier rather than later to provide this support. Likewise, if mum was unwell towards the end of labour the baby may need to separated so that medical assistance can be given quickly to mum. If you were planning to collect and store cord blood then the cord is cut earlier in order to collect as much blood from the cord as possible for storage. As with many preferences in labour, they cannot always be guaranteed due to the varying nature of labour and delivery.
Different practitioners will have different views on this practice. This is your body, this is your baby, and this is your labour. Research the topic using reputable information, discuss with your practitioner, and decide if delayed cord clamping is for you. Research has not shown negative side effects resulting from delayed cord clamping when being cared for by trained practitioners, but has shown positive effects. If you do decide that you would like delayed cord clamping for you and your baby then make sure that the people delivering your baby and your support people are aware of it.
About the Author: Michelle Penn has over 10 years experience as a midwife and child & family health nurse. As well as being mum to four little ones (including two-year old twin boys), she is passionate about empowering and educating new mums with relevant and interesting information to help them with the amazing journey which is motherhood. When Michelle is not delivering babies or raising her own tribe you’ll find her running, removing small pieces of Lego from the bottom of her feet, reading chick lit or escaping the grind with Candy Crush and a red Lindt ball.
Read other parents experiences with delayed cord clamping here