After nine long months, hours and hours of labor, the time has finally come when you see your baby. Your husband or doctor holds him up and you just get the rush of “awe” at the amazing moment enveloping you.
Then nothing else matters, you just want to hold him and let the rest of everything else take care of itself.
And you should because you’ve earned it!
But something may be happening that you don’t even realize at that moment—something very important. Your doctor could be clamping your baby’s umbilical cord without you noticing. Maybe it seems like not that big of a deal? But it IS.
Your doctor could be clamping your baby’s umbilical cord without you noticing. Maybe it seems like not that big of a deal? But it IS.
There are delayed cord clamping benefits that your baby NEEDS. If your doctor is eager to get this birth over with to move onto the next one, he may clamp that cord right away upon baby’s entry in order to get moving along. But if he does this, your baby is LOSING benefits and increasing the risk of other harms.
Umbilical Cord Science
If you need a refresher on anatomy—from out of your baby’s belly button grows their umbilical cord, which is connected to the placenta, which is connected to your uterus. All of the blood flowing through the placenta and cord is the baby’s, NOT yours.
When your baby is born, all of the blood still left in the placenta and cord immediately starts to move directly into the baby (placental transfusion). In fact, 1/3 of the baby’s blood is STILL left in the placenta at birth.
Now it doesn’t happen immediately. The umbilical cord still has a pulse flowing through it once your baby is out. It can take up to five minutes for all of the blood to empty from the placenta into your baby. Which is why your placenta doesn’t come out immediately with the baby either, there’s a bit of a delay.
Delayed Cord Clamping Benefits
So in order to save time (supposedly), the doctor can clamp the cord, cut it, hand you the baby and then leave once his job is done. Then the nurses can also take your baby sooner to weigh him, to all their little checks, etc. Saving what, like 5 minutes?
When the cord clamp is delayed, sure it takes an extra few minutes. But there are excellent benefits to leaving it alone until blood flow has ceased, such as:
- Placenta Delivery: When all of the baby’s blood leaves the placenta, its likelihood of delivering itself without any issues increases. It’s done it job and can release itself from your uterine wall and come out as expected.
- Developing Conditions: There are a number of conditions that your baby is spared from developing because they have all of the sufficient blood cells, iron stores, and necessary nutrients enclosed in their blood stream.
A study published in 2015 in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics showed that delayed cord clamping improves your child’s fine-motor skills and social interaction abilities through toddler-hood, especially for boys.
The tiny risk of jaundice (if it truly is a risk) is not even comparable to the other risks heavily associated with choosing to clamp the cord quickly.
There is ONE caveat to this argument. Some sources will say that delayed cord clamping will increase your baby’s risk of developing jaundice, others won’t.
However, the tiny risk of jaundice (if it truly is a risk) is not even comparable to the other risks heavily associated with choosing to clamp the cord quickly.
Early Cord Clamping Risks
Clamping the cord before blood flow has slowed or ceased completely has a number of documented risks directly influenced by clamping early.
- Neurodevelopment: Because of the lower level of blood stores in the baby, it will have insufficient levels of iron for months after they’re born. Too low of levels of iron can lead to neurodevelopmental delay, which you absolutely what you don’t want.
- Hemorrhage: Not for the baby, but for the mother here—when the placenta has too much blood remaining in it, it’s trying to send it somewhere. But when the path through the cord is blocked, it has to go somewhere. So the increased likelihood of a mother have a placental hemorrhage increases. And when the placenta is still attached to the uterus without the blood vessels having properly started to close off, the loss of blood can be too great.
- Anemia: This is a condition where the body doesn’t generate or have enough red blood cells. Because your baby has just begun creating its own cells, it can be slow going at first. So when their blood supply is cut off, their blood level is often too and they may start having anemic symptoms.
In comparing these risks to that have having a little jaundice, I would take the jaundice.
In comparing these risks to that have having a little jaundice, I would take the jaundice. Because I know that my baby is going to recover from jaundice and the side effects are nothing to me in comparison to the aspects of neurodevelopment.
What If You Want To Bank Your Baby’s Cord Blood?
There is no consensus between storing cord blood and delayed cord clamping among the medical community. Why? Because you can’t have both.
To acquire the amount of cord blood needed for sufficient storage of limited stem cells, you have to be willing to clamp your baby’s cord very early. When you wait until the pulse has slowed or ceased, there’s not enough left for a cord blood banking lab to pool the stem cells from.
It’s not like you can hand a vial of cord blood to a technician and expect them to pull all of the blood cells from it, leaving you with millions and millions of stem cells. There’s just NOT that many. Cord blood banks require nearly all of the available cord blood volume in order to store enough worthwhile.
If you’re birthing your baby naturally and unmedicated, your odds of having a baby with illnesses and disease drops dramatically.
The conditions that a child would need stem cells in the future are limited to their having leukemia or some other cancer of the blood, very rare indeed.
Yes, it still happens. But your odds of having health issues related to lacking that initial cord blood from the very beginning may be less likely.
Your baby is much better off having their stem cells NOW when they’re growing is so important.
With my first baby, I was flooded with information about cord blood banking and was heavily considering it. But after some research and the cost versus benefit, my husband and I decided that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. And I’m not regretting the decision.
For example: In the study I mentioned above about fine-motor skills and social interactions with young children, 11% of those children that were affected had early cord clamping.
The value of a minuscule 0.014% risk of my baby needing their cord blood is NOT greater than the 11% chance that they would grow up with developmental delays.
Of the 25 million children under age five in the US, approximately 3,500 are expected to gain leukemia each year, according to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. So if you do the math, that’s 0.014% of children that would likely need their cord blood for treatment of leukemia.
So how are you going to weigh the risks?
The value of a minuscule 0.014% risk of my baby needing their cord blood is NOT greater than the 11% chance that they would grow up with developmental delays. So it becomes your decision on whether you want to save your baby’s cord blood or not.
Emergency Situations Differ
Now, there can be times when getting your baby out as fast as possible and disconnected from you quickly is more important. You may have had a complication during your labor that requires immediate attention. Maybe your baby’s life is at stake for some reason.
I believe in these cases, clamping and cutting that cord immediately can mean the difference between taking your baby home or not. But don’t freak out when you hear that! Those instances are just as rare as your baby developing leukemia—maybe more, maybe less.
If there EVER was a concern that this may happen, your doctor will inform you or know in advance so that you can work together on what you feel is best for your child.
C³ = Cord Clamping Conclusion
There are a few things you can do to help your delayed cord clamping decision happen:
- Discuss it will your doctor/midwife and husband. Let them know beforehand of your desires to ensure that they will comply and support you.
- Have it in your birth plan. You likely won’t have met your nurses or attending staff until you’re in labor. Help them know so that they can reminder the doctor too.
- Extra Tip: You can also have the doctor or your husband hold the baby level with your uterus until the blood flow has ceased. Then the placenta and baby’s blood pressure aren’t fighting gravity as hard to pump that blood to the right place. Its assists in the placental transfusion I mentioned earlier.
It may not seem like a big deal in the end, and maybe it won’t be for you. But anything that will help your baby’s growth and blossoming childhood is worth the effort.
I hope this has helped you make your decision on whether or not the timing of your baby’s cord being clamped is important to you, and when you would want to do it.
It’s not something most people think about, or completely forget when in the moment of seeing baby for the first time. So make sure you’re aware!
Are you going to delay your baby’s cord clamping?