Welcome back to our A-Z Childbirth Series! Today on the blog we are going to cover a topic that used to be controversial but has since become pretty clear cut! It’s always a relief when there is enough evidence to support a clear answer!
If you choose to create a birth plan, which we highly recommend, one of the decisions you will likely include is whether or not you want delayed cord clamping for your child. What does it mean to delay cord clamping? It simply means that instead of clamping and cutting the baby’s umbilical cord immediately at birth you wait for a period of time. The amount of time can very hugely. Currently in Regina it is standard to delay cord clamping for 1 minute. This one minute delay is even usually done during cesarean sections. Some parents ask for a 3-5 minute delay to allow more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby. There are also parents who choose to leave the cord attached until the cord has stopped pulsating or has completely turned white. The farthest end of the spectrum of options includes those who choose not to cut the cord and to allow the cord to dry up and detach on it’s own.
The reason that delayed cord clamping is recommended is that a good portion of the babies blood is still in the cord and the placenta at birth. The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends delayed cord clamping for all healthy infants. Previously it was only recommended for preterm infants. Between 25% and 40% of the babies blood remains in the placenta and umbilical cord at birth. That is a significant amount! It’s also important to note that “cord milking” or pushing blood from the cord into the baby has not been studied enough to know if it is as effective as delayed cord clamping. Delayed cord clamping is supported by studies, but “cord milking” is not at this point. This means that we can’t assume that cord milking carries the same benefits.
The benefits of delayed cord clamping are increased hemoglobin levels and higher iron stores. This could have a favourable effect on developmental outcomes. They did find that babies had slightly increased jaundice levels but this can be treated with phototherapy (a special light). Care providers keep a close eye on jaundice levels so that it can be treated quickly if needed.
If you are more of a visual person Penny Simpkin has an amazing video available on youtube that visually demonstrates the benefits of delayed cord clamping. You can find that video here.
Did you do delayed cord clamping with your child? Are you pregnant and planning to do delayed cord clamping? We would love to hear about it!