Delayed Cord Clamping

Excellent article by Penny Simken about the advantages of delayed cord clamping.

It is becoming very clear that delaying cord clamping has real advantages for the baby (and possibly for the mother, but, at this time the science is not as clear on advantages for the mother).

After birth, for about 3 to 6 minutes, there continues to be transfusion of blood through the umbilical cord between the placenta and the baby. There is a substance, “Wharton’s Jelly,” in the cord that begins to swell when the cord hits the air. As it swells it constricts the blood vessels in the cord, preventing further passage of blood through the cord. That’s the right time to clamp the cord, unless there are compelling medical reasons to remove the baby to a warmer for treatment.

Even though it is unlikely that the blood carries oxygen to the baby (because oxygen stops crossing to the placenta as soon as the baby is born, well before the placenta separated from the wall of the uterus), delaying clamping is the best way to ensure that the baby gets the optimal volume of blood and right number of red blood cells. Studies indicate that when clamping of the cord is delayed for at least two minutes, the baby is significantly less likely to be anemic at 3 and 6 months of age.

The best place for the baby during these minutes is skin-to-skin on the mother’s belly – not held up above the mother or below the mother, because gravity can cause more blood than optimal to either leave the body or enter the body. Also, no one should “milk the cord” to get more blood into the baby. There have been few scientific trials of waiting until the cord stops pulsating, but many midwives and doctors who believe in non-interference with the normal process feel that the best way to ensure that the baby gets the right amount of blood is to have the baby on the mother and wait until the cord stops pulsating. My guess is that your midwife’s usual practice is to leave the cord alone until it stops pulsating. I hope this is helpful.

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