After seeing that gorgeous, pink slippery baby being placed on your chest, the last thing on your mind is what’s going on with the cord and placenta. But there are some really big, evidence-based reasons why you need to be clear about what happens to your baby’s cord and placenta.
Delayed cord clamping (which really should be normal cord clamping, since immediate cutting is a premature act) offers some massive health benefits to your baby, but many doctors and hospitals are yet to implement delayed cord clamping as standard practice as they just don’t want to wait. Here’s why you should insist that your caregiver should wait before cutting your baby’s cord.
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #1: Your Baby Will Have Significantly More Blood Volume
Thats right, around a third of a baby’s volume of blood will be where it belongs – in your baby and not discarded. This study clearly states:
“Early clamping of the umbilical cord at birth, a practice developed without adequate evidence, causes neonatal blood volume to vary 25% to 40%..”
“Cord circulation continues for several minutes after birth and placental transfusion results in approximately 30% more blood volume.”
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #2: Your Baby Will Have More Iron, Which May Prevent Deficiencies
If your baby has more blood, then of course he or she will get all the benefits of what is in that blood – including stem cells and iron. In fact, by delaying cord clamping by just two minutes can increase a baby's iron reserve by 27-47mg, equivalent to 1-2 months of an infant's iron requirements. This could then in turn help to prevent iron deficiencies developing before 6 months of age. Have you noticed many baby foods, cereals and formulas promote reinforced iron to prevent deficiencies? Not cutting the cord can help with that too.
This study found:
“Infants subjected to delayed cord clamping had 45% higher mean ferritin concentration (117 μg/L v 81 μg/L) and a lower prevalence of iron deficiency (1 (0.6%) v 10 (5.7%).”
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #3: Lower Risk Of Anaemia
When a baby receives their full volume of blood, there is a lowered risk of anaemia, especially if the pregnant mother was anaemic. This systematic review of studies found:
“Two of the four studies from developing countries found a significant difference in infant haemoglobin levels at 2-3 months of age in favour of delayed cord-clamping. This difference was more marked when mothers were anaemic.”
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #4: Higher Birth Weight
Women get nervous when you talk about bigger babies, but the fact that babies who have their full volume of blood have a higher birth weight must mean this is an important and healthy thing, especially if you’re expecting a small for dates baby.
From the Cochrane Database’s cord clamping review:
“Mean birthweight was significantly higher in the late, compared with early, cord clamping (101 g increase)”
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #5: A Reduced Risk Of Intraventricular Haemorrhage And Late-Onset Sepsis
Here’s two reasons in one! Intraventricular haemorrhage is bleeding into the fluid-filled areas of the brain (the ventricles), and is more common in premature babies. Late-onset sepsis usually develops at around 3-7 days post birth and is bacterial infection (contracted from the caregiver’s environment) in the baby’s blood.
In this study here, it was found that:
“… significant differences were found between the ICC [immediate cord clamping] and DCC [delayed cord clamping] groups in the rates of IVH [Intraventricular Hemorrhage] and LOS [Late-Onset Sepsis].
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #6: Fewer Transfusions
As a result of delayed cord clamping, babies have fewer transfusions than when immediately clamped.
“Seven studies were eligible for inclusion. The maximum delay in cord clamping was 120 seconds. Delayed cord clamping was associated with fewer transfusions for anaemia or low blood pressure and less intraventricular haemorrhage than early clamping.”
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #7: The Cord Is A Source Of Oxygen
While the umbilical cord is attached to the baby, he or she still receives oxygen, which helps to explain how water-birthed babies can breathe while under water. Its not until they hit the air that the breathing reflex is stimulated.
Having a valuable source of oxygen is so important, especially for babies who need help breathing. It would be fabulous for someone to design resuscitation equipment for hospitals which allow for the baby to have the cord in tact and close to his mother, both of which can be extremely beneficial for babies with difficulties.
Reason NOT To Cut The Cord #8: Because Skin To Skin Is Far More Important
While its not as common in Australian, many hospitals overseas take baby away after birth to check them over, meaning the cord needs to be clamped immediately. Right after birth is a very important, magical moment that the mother and baby will never get back – the attachment – and it should be as immediate and undisturbed as possible. There is no reason to separate the mother and her baby and there is no reason to cut that cord. The mother and baby should be enjoying beautiful skin to skin contact without any interference. Leave the cord alone and let mother and baby be, unless there is a medical emergency.
So When Should The Cord Be Cut?
Some of the studies quoted have based their findings on two minutes before clamping the cord, but most parents like to wait until the cord has stopped pulsating, meaning the placenta has done its job and is no longer sending blood to the baby. The very least amount of time you would want to wait is two minutes.
A small percent of parents choose to have a lotus birth, where they leave the placenta attached and allow it to detach in its own time. They often make or purchase specialised placenta bags, sprinkling herbs and flowers (like lavender) on the placenta, so there is no smell.
The Latest Research On Delayed Cord Clamping
There have been many years of studies on delayed clamping, however the latest Cochrane Database review from 2013 can be found here. They reviewed 15 trials and found that there were no differences in the outcomes for the mother with regards to haemorrhage, a reason doctors often poobah delayed clamping:
“There were no significant differences between early versus late cord clamping groups for the primary outcome of severe postpartum haemorrhage … or for postpartum haemorrhage of 500 mL or more… There were no significant differences between subgroups depending on the use of uterotonic drugs. Mean blood loss was reported in only two trials with data for 1345 women, with no significant differences seen between groups; or for maternal haemoglobin values.”
There are many unfounded reasons why delayed cord clamping is discounted, however this research speaks for itself time and time again.
For more detailed information on delayed cord clamping, check out BellyBelly’s article Delayed Cord Clamping: Why You Should Demand It.
See a great talk from Ob Gyn, Doctor Nicholas Fogelson, where he discusses the physiologic and clinical impacts of delayed umbilical cord clamping. The talk is being given to Pediatric/Ob Gyn Grand rounds at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, urging them to look at how we do delayed cord clamping.