Delayed cord clamping isn’t a new process and has been part of Birthways Family Birth Center standard of care for as long as we’ve been welcoming babies.
In practice, we typically wait until the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating and often until after the placenta is born to clamp and cut the cord. At our center, the clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord is left to the discretion of the mother when no medical complications are presented.
The clamping and severing of the umbilical cord is considered to be a spiritual and sacred process in many cultures, encouraging the medical community to research the positive and negative effects of delayed cord clamping. Recently, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have published an official scholarly recommendation to delay the clamping of an umbilical cord at least 30-60 seconds after birth. While this doesn’t seem like a long time, it is longer than immediate cutting and has been shown to have positive benefits.
This recommendation is slowly but surely raising the standard for delayed clamping, providing newborns with a multitude of benefits at birth and later development.
ACOG Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
While preterm infants may benefit the most from delayed cord clamping, all infants can benefit both physically and developmentally at birth and the first few months postpartum. Some of these incredible benefits include improved transitional circulation,increased red blood cell volume as well as decreased risk of brain hemorrhaging and iron deficiency in the first year.
Because iron deficiency has been linked to impaired cognitive development, delayed clamping can improve the cognitive, motor and behavioral development of infants in their first year. This can make it easier to reach developmental milestones and help infants establish stronger mental and emotional connections.
The only notable drawbacks that coincide with delayed cord clamping are the yield of cord blood if the parents are choosing to bank. Cord blood banking agencies require a minimum volume of cord blood and the delayed clamping results in less blood to meet this criteria. Each birth is different and in some cases, delaying the clamping doesn’t create a problem for banking. This can be considered a minor setback, as the health benefits in this case dramatically outweigh any negatives.
Each family has their own beliefs and cultural lens when it comes to their birth decisions and cord clamping. Some choose lotus birthing in which the placenta remains attached until it naturally separates from the infant, usually after a few days. Other parents choose more traditional methods of severing the cord like cord burning.
After ACOG published their research on delayed clamping, standards of care have begun to change for the better.
Although delayed cord clamping has always been an important part of our philosophy, we firmly believe it remains at the discretion of parents. However, this will hopefully change the perception of delayed cord clamping in hospitals and birthing centers across the board as more parents and practitioners familiarize themselves with the undeniable health benefits for newborns.