Do I cut the cord now? (waits 30 seconds)
How about now? (1 min later)
Wondering when to cut your baby’s umbilical cord? Did you know you can have a say in when your baby’s umbilical cord is cut? If you are part of the birth world (and yes, it is a world all its own), then you have probably had a conversation about this trendy topic. However, maybe you are new to this world and are just learning about your options when it comes to cutting the cord. As with all decisions regarding pregnancy and childbirth, it may fit best for you to do your research before making a decision. That, however, is often easier said than done. Thanks to the Internet, there are so many articles, posts, and opinions about any given topic that it is difficult to find the most accurate unbiased information regarding your topic of interest. The issue of when to cut your baby’s umbilical cord is especially difficult because the benefits of delayed cord clamping are still being researched, and many medical professionals have differing viewpoints on the topic.
But wait!!!!! The Internet isn’t the only place where we get conflicting viewpoints and opinions. While the Internet is a go-to resource for many people, some of us still like to ask friends and family for information about pregnancy and childbirth.
Picture this: you ask your good friend, who has recently given birth, when she cut the cord. Her response is something like, “Well, they say it could take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes but even waiting 1 minute is better. I think we waited about 3 or 4 minutes…but I read somewhere that if you hold your baby lower than the placenta it will go faster.” WAIT, WHAT?!? (Yes, I, too, pictured a doctor holding a crying newborn down toward the floor, waiting for that blood to pump through the umbilical cord. Don’t worry – it won’t happen.) The problem with discussing the topic of delayed cord clamping is that it is so easy to simply ask, “When do I cut the cord?” that we often forget to continue the conversation. Your friend may have given you an idea of how long to wait, but do you know why she chose to do it? Do you understand the benefits and risks?
With most trendy topics we get caught up in the “how” of the situation – “How long did you wait to cut your baby’s cord?” – when really we should be concerned with the “why.” “Why did you choose to wait 1 minute, or 3 minutes, or 5 minutes?” Or even, “Why did you choose not to wait?” These are the important questions and these questions can only be answered when you have all of the information. In order to present you with an assessment of the benefits and risks of delayed cord clamping, I have thoroughly researched the topic and read through countless internet resources to help you in making this decision for you and your baby. My goal is that with the following information you’ll be able to not only answer the question, “How long did you wait?” but also, “Why did you choose to wait or not wait?”
What are the benefits of waiting to cut the cord?
- Blood Volume.
One third of a baby’s blood volume remains in the placenta after birth (this is true for both pre-term and full term babies). Studies have shown that waiting just 1 minute after birth supplies the baby with approximately 80 milliliters of blood, and waiting 3 minutes supplies them with approximately 100 milliliters. This in turn means that the baby’s heart will have more blood to pump throughout the body and will not have to direct blood away from other organs in order to have enough for the lungs (breathing is a lot of work for a newborn).
Iron is an essential nutrient to brain growth and development. With an increased blood volume comes an increased level of iron. Waiting approximately 3 minutes after birth to cut the cord supplies the baby with enough iron to last through the first 4-6 months of life.
- Stem Cells.
The concentration of stem cells in the blood is highest at birth than it will ever be again. Stem cells contribute to the development of the immune, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems, and immediate cord clamping leaves all of those beneficial stem cells behind.
What are the risks of waiting?
Jaundice is caused when red blood cells break down, producing bilirubin. This excess of bilirubin causes a yellowing of the skin or eyes. Studies have found that jaundice affects both babies who had their cord clamped immediately as well as babies who had delayed cord clamping. Some research has found that infants who undergo delayed cord clamping have an increased need for phototherapy (the treatment for jaundice) following birth.
- Postpartum Hemorrhage.
Research has yet to find a correlation between delayed cord clamping and an increased risk in maternal bleeding. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists labels it as a theoretic concern and states that more research is needed to confirm that it is not a risk.
- Stem Cells.
If you are considering stem cell banking or cord blood banking, you may not be able to delay cord clamping. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The American Academy of Pediatrics assert that delayed cord clamping should not be considered when collecting umbilical cord blood.
In conclusion, the choice to delay cord clamping is one that you will have to make and discuss with your care provider. Whether or not you choose to delay cord clamping, my hope is that you can answer the question of why you did or didn’t with confidence, because it is your decision to make. Also, to address the scene at the beginning of this article with the doctor holding that poor baby below the level of the placenta…While gravity does help speed the process, most delayed cord clamping studies indicate that your baby will get all the extras it needs from the umbilical cord (should you choose to delay cutting) simply lying on your belly or chest.
Authored by: Nicole Jones
Lancaster Doulas LLC supports all decisions surround birth and the postpartum period. Learn more about your birthing options with our Your Birth Experience CBE class!