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5 reasons delayed cord clamping is great!

by | Aug 8, 2018 | Resources

Delayed cord clamping means to leave the umbilical intact without clamping or cutting it for a while after the baby is born. Different people say it means different things: maybe 30 seconds or maybe the placenta gets delivered first. But what it really means is that we get our hands off of a natural process designed to help–nay, protect–babies and mothers through birth.

Contrast this with the standard used for decades: babies’ cords have been clamped and cut “on the perineum”. This means that as soon as the doctor can hold the slippery baby enough to not drop it, a hemostat is clamped near the umbilicus and the cord is cut. Before the mom even sees what her baby looks like, an irrevocable medical procedure has taken place.

This may sound harsh and cold. But it is actually a BIG deal to a baby’s health and every parent should know more about it. Ask your providers about it.

Look at how purple and fat that cord is!

one: built-in resuscitation

The umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta, the organ that has provided oxygen and nutrients throughout life so far. After the baby is born it continues to provide oxygen to the baby! Even if the baby hasn’t taken a breath, oxygen is getting to the baby and circulating to it’s heart and brain. Cord blood also provides the blood reserves needed to help fill up the tiny blood vessels in the lungs, allowing for the lungs to inflate more easily.

What does this all mean? Nature has taken care of the baby’s needs just at the exact time that baby would need the oxygen and the lung inflation needed to start breathing! It’s a natural, built-in resuscitation prevention and administration device.

two: full of great stuff

We already know cord blood has oxygen and, well, blood to fill up the lungs. It also has other chemicals needed to help the baby come around after being in a lower oxygen situation. It also has stem cells! You heard me–it has those super important, immune boosting, health giving cells that go all over the baby’s body preventing or taking care of problems, now at birth and long into the future.

Nowadays, there’s a lot of interest and research on cord blood precisely because it’s so jam-packed with stem cells. Stem cells are known to fight cancer, combat neurological degeneration, and more. Those stem cells are worth lot of $$$!

So don’t just give away your baby’s stem cells–let your baby have them!

three: controls mom’s bleeding

Your uterus just pushed out about 2 Costco sized milk jugs worth of baby and amniotic fluid–it’s all stretched out and a little bit tired. It will squeeze more effectively to get out your placenta and reduce bleeding if it has a few minutes to rest and recoup. While your baby is getting oxygen, blood volume, and stem cells, your uterus reduces in size and easily detaches your placenta. No need to pull out the placenta or go up and in to fish it out!

It’s really interesting to watch the mom-baby needs during this time: if the baby needs the blood and oxygen from the cord, there’s no maternal bleeding and the cord stays plump and purple, but if the baby has transitioned the cord goes white and mom starts having contractions to birth the placenta.

Placenta delivery is easier and less painful with less blood loss when delayed clamping is allowed to occur.

four: more mom-baby togetherness

At this point, the baby is still on you, not across the room on the warmer! It breaks the circle of birth and interrupts the naturally occurring protective mechanisms to have your baby taken away from you. From better newborn transitions, to less maternal bleeding, to better newborn bacterial colonization, to more maternal control of birth, delayed cord clamping is absolutely the right thing to do.

With an intact cord, your baby can only be as far away as the cord is long. Which is to say up on your belly or chest. You get to see that normal and totally amazing newborn ability to breathe, look around, find your nipple…and completely blow your mind!

five: better pediatric outcomes

Ok, this all sounds great, but what about newborn jaundice and even overfilling their lungs–won’t this hurt the baby?  We’ve all been told for-e-ver that the baby won’t be able to breathe if the cord isn’t cut right away, that it could have too much blood for its system causing bad jaundice, and that it would overfill their body.

Let’s see how those assertions could not even happen:

  1. Once the baby’s circulatory system is “filled up”, the cord shuts itself down, preventing the flow of blood.
  2. Importantly, the capillaries around the lungs are miles long and it takes a lot of blood to fill them up. If the cord blood doesn’t fill them up, the blood will have to come from the baby’s other organs and muscles.
  3. Jaundice is normal and is actually reduced when a baby nurses early and often–this happens more easily when mom-baby are together.
  4. All babies’ hearts and circulatory systems will transition over if the cord is left intact. Period. (A small caveat would be in the case of a rare heart malformation.)
I’ve now spent a decade of watching moms and babies through delayed cord clamping–and sometimes immediate clamping. The increased benefits and reduced risks are strikingly clear.