Updated: Apr 29
Are There Benefits To Delayed Cord Clamping After Delivery?
When research was lacking, medical staff was left to decide on standard practice on delayed cord clamping. However, there has been more research in recent history concerning delayed cord clamping, and its effects can be significant.
If you allow, we will start with the question, "What is delayed cord clamping?" then, let's take a look at some of the research, and then let's examine some of the benefits that delayed cord clamping has to offer. Lastly, we will consider why it is essential to bring this topic up to your birth team and talk to them about how you want them to advocate for you and your baby.
What Is Delayed Cord Clamping?
Clamping of the umbilical cord is a part of the standard after-birth care. Delayed cord clamping is the lengthening of the time between birth and the clamping of the cord after the baby is born. The time between the delivery of your baby and the clamping of their cord is a spectrum that can be between 25 seconds to however long the family desires.
Delaying the cord's clamping allows more volume of your baby's blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby. The placenta is composed of two arteries and a large vein that returns blood to the baby. Allowing time between delivery and clamping of the umbilical cord transfers more of the baby's blood, giving the baby better iron storage and increased healthy brain development.
The World Health Organization's more recent recommendation is that cord clamping should wait, if possible, at least one minute. Most midwives will recommend waiting until the cord stops pulsating before clamping and cutting the cord and may wait until the placenta has been delivered.
Research Support Delayed Cord Clamping
According to this study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it has not been proven that immediate cord clamping or holding the baby below the level of the placenta has a direct benefit. Instead, immediate cord clamping probably happened due to a physician's desire to move freely to resuscitate the baby if needed. Yet, when the baby's cord is cut, you cut the only source of blood flow for their body until their heart takes over. This is a crucial fact when you consider that most baby's cords are cut quickly when they desperately need the placenta's help to keep blood and oxygen flowing throughout their body.
Studies are currently being done to help support the idea that leaving the baby's cord intact during neonatal resuscitation is of the most benefit. The frustrating part of this is that midwives already know the answer and have seen the results of keeping the cord intact during resuscitation. If only researchers would include ALL midwives in their studies.
Neonatal resuscitation with an intact cord is an exciting possibility to ensure every newborn receives a placental transfusion. Several important clinical trials in both term and preterm infants will help answer the question as to its clinical benefit. There are a number of logistical issues that will need to be improved before this becomes standard practice, but it holds tremendous promise.
Two other midwives and I recently experienced how truly life-saving it is to keep the cord attached during resuscitation. We did not know that the photo to the right was taken until about 2 weeks postpartum. When this photo was sent to us, we were all taken aback by the feelings that one can see and sense in this photo. Because this baby was still attached to his cord, he continued to have blood and oxygen delivered to his body while we work to help his heart take over.
Now, mind you, there are reasons involved in some high-risk pregnancies that delaying cutting the cord is not beneficial, but we are not talking about those situations in this post.
How Does Kharis Midwifery Handle Delayed Cord Clamping?
Kharis Midwifery believes that delayed cord clamping is crucial to your newborn. We usually wait until the newborn exam to have a family member cut the cord. The newborn exam is typically done about 60 - 90 minutes after the birth to ensure that all the baby's blood has been given back to them. Of course, if the family prefers for the cord to be cut sooner rather than later, we will always accommodate their desires.
Talk To Your Midwife About Delayed Cord Clamping
While delayed cord clamping has proven benefits, the safety of the mother and child must always be considered the priority. Therefore, if you desire to implement delayed cord clamping as a part of your after-birth care, it is essential to talk to your midwife and supporting physician before labor.
Ask questions about how they might handle cord clamping if intervention is needed for the baby or mom. In addition, ask questions about how long they are willing to delay clamping the umbilical cord and if they have suggestions on what to do if a risk is found.
If you are looking for a midwife supportive of delayed cord clamping when done safely, contact us using this link. https://www.kharismidwifery.com/contact
*Images shared with permission from the fantastic momma who is a Doula with Built for Births.
Photo Credit: Blush Little Baby.