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Discover the benefits of delayed cord clamping. It’s a simple procedure that can improve the health and wellness of the baby long term.
The birthing process is perhaps the most miraculous thing on Earth. However, many doctors seem not to understand something about it. Or, they don’t care enough to. And that’s the role of the umbilical cord immediately after birth. a
Usually, the umbilical cord is cut almost immediately after birth. It’s as if the cord is a vestigial organ. It’s not necessary and unsightly. The sooner the cord is cut, the quicker baby looks like a normal human. And not like a sci-fi creature.
However, research shows there’s good reason not to immediately cut the cord. As a result, more delivery doctors, nurses and midwives are practicing delayed cord clamping.
Why is delayed cord clamping good?
After a baby is born, the umbilical cord still pulsates. Delayed cord clamping waits until after the cord ceases pulsing. (And sometimes, after the placenta is delivered.)
One of the major benefits of delayed cord clamping is baby gets a vital supply of blood. In fact, the umbilical cord and placenta supply baby with about one third of total blood volume.
In other words, waiting a few minutes (3-5) will prevent baby from having low blood supply. Research like this shows delaying cord clamping results in baby receiving up to 30% more blood. However, if the cord is cut immediately after birth, it takes about half a year for baby to develop a full blood supply.
Benefits of delaying cord clamping
Both the cord and placenta are like an external circulation system. They help supply baby with oxygen and nutrients. And, the umbilical cord and placenta also carry waste away.
It’s easy to see how developmental problems can arise if baby doesn’t have enough blood. A full supply of blood means more red blood cells. Having more red blood cells means having more oxygen. As well as less carbon dioxide.
Another of the benefits of delayed cord clamping is better immunity. The process allows for more immune and stem cells.
The benefits of delaying cord clamping aren’t all for baby either. It benefits, mom, too. Mom will have a better emotional experience. She’s able to bond with baby as nature intends, with cord intact.
Unfortunately, in many hospitals, the birthing process is like an assembly line. (Optional reading: castor oil to speed up delivery.) Getting patients out of the delivery ward is crucial to some hospital’s bottom lines. The umbilical cord and placenta are treated as garbage. However, more doctors and midwives realize something important immediately after birth occurs. The placenta still provides critical oxygen, blood and nutrition. It’s the pulsating cord that supplies this lifeline.
How long to delay cord clamping?
According to the World Health Organization, 3 minutes or more after birth. Visually, the cord will become flat and pulseless. That’s when the midwife or doctor should cut the cord. Watch any mainstream movie featuring a birth, the cord will be clamped immediately. But in real life, there’s proven research that there are risks to immediately cutting the cord.
Having less blood can result in iron deficiency. Research shows that in the first few months of life, iron deficiency leads to brain developmental delay. This delay, unfortunately, may be irreversible.
As it says above, there’s benefits for mom with delaying cord clamping. The converse is true as well. With immediate clamping, there’s risk of postpartum hemorrhage. Immediate clamping may also make it more difficult for the uterus to contract. This in turn results in the placenta not being able to exit mom as quickly.
Is there risk of delayed cord clamping?
Not really. There are a couple small studies showing minor risk of jaundice. But there’s not nearly enough evidence of risk. At least not enough to outweigh the benefits of delayed cord clamping.
Delayed cord clamping pros and cons
Consider this report by National Public Radio (NPR). It says one benefit of delaying cord clamping is higher IQ. Moreover, kids with delayed cord clamping have higher social skills. They also have better fine motor skills.
Also, delaying cord clamping increases baby’s iron. In fact, by almost double. (source) By having more iron, baby’s blood is able to better clot. That means a baby’s cut heals faster.
Another pro of delaying cord clamping? Baby receives an infusion of stem cells. Stem cells are essential for baby’s developing cardiovascular system. And immunity. And respiratory system. In addition, stem cells play a key role in baby’s developing central nervous system.
There are virtually no cons to delayed cord clamping. (Other than, for dad, witnessing the pulsating cord might result in fainting.)
Delayed cord clamping C-section
A whopping one-third of all births in the U.S. is via C-section. Can delayed cord clamping be effective for C-section births?
In a word, yes.
Fairly recently, conventional thinking was there was not benefits from the cord. Babies born via c-section (cesarean), the assumption was, did not receive the infusion of blood. Or the nutrients from the placenta. However, one theory speculates this is because of anesthesia. But not from the delivery itself.
But new research like this study shows benefits. It suggests baby does indeed receive nutrients and blood from the placenta. Even during C-section. However, researchers still are not completely sure about one thing. And that’s the amount of time to delay clamping after a C-section.
The research is not definitive. But it’s probably likely that waiting even a minute offers benefits to baby.
Delayed cord clamping autism connection
Does delaying cutting the cord help prevent autism? Or, more accurately, can cutting it immediately cause it?
This study says there is some evidence. Albeit not a direct link. Hypoxia is deficiency of oxygen reaching the tissues. It’s fact that immediate cord clamping causes newborn hypoxia. This research shows a causal link between hypoxia and autism.
A Japanese study suggests a higher risk for autism in NICU babies. This is particularly true of babies with in-utero low oxygen. These babies require resuscitation. And immediate cord clamping is the chief protocol for resuscitation.
There’s a controversial neonatal physician, George Malcolm Morley. He says the incidence of autism parallels that of immediate cord clamping.
Benefits of delayed cord clamping: conclusion
An increasing number of expecting mothers are choosing to delay cord clamping. Immediately clamping the cord alters the normal birthing process. Is the cord still pulsing? If so, something critical is going on. Your baby’s getting its first supply of oxygen, blood and nutrients outside of the womb.
Even premature babies and those born via c-section can enjoy the benefits of delayed cord clamping. In the case of the former, it can literally be a life-saving, organ-damage-preventing measure.