I am a labor and delivery nurse who believes in the natural side of birth and doing it the best way for you and your baby. The umbilical cord plays an important role in your newborn’s life. Its importance starts in the womb and continues throughout the first few valuable minutes after birth. Delayed cord clamping is another crucial part of birth, which continues my “get this off my chest” series.
The Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord connects your baby to the placenta. It contains three vessels: two arteries, and one vein. The arteries carry blood away from the baby, and the vein carries it to the baby. The blood in the arteries contains waste products. The waste products travel through the arteries, filter through the placenta, into you, and then you get rid of it. The reverse is true for the vein. The vein brings nutrients and oxygen-rich blood to the baby from your system.
This is why you need to take care of yourself during pregnancy. You are doing important work.
Delayed Cord Clamping
Delayed cord clamping is just that; it’s waiting to clamp the cord. You guys know what used to happen, right? The baby is born, the doctor grabs the clamp, and then — boom — clamps the cord. No delay.
Waiting a few precious minutes is valuable to your newborn.
Evidence-based practice shows that delaying clamping the cord is the most beneficial to the baby.
Why do you hear more and more about Delayed Cord Clamping?
We hear more and more about this important aspect of birth because more and more authorities are recommending it as best practice.
Delayed cord clamping used to be done only by the “home birth hippies” and midwives, and now, lo and behold, doctors are joining in. (For the record, I have been called a home birth hippie, so don’t take offense if you identify.)
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) now recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping for all healthy infants for at least 30-60 seconds after birth given the numerous benefits to most newborns.
Everyone is jumping on board and agree that delayed cord clamping is the best way to go, unless it delays important resuscitation measures.
Midwives have been screaming this point out for a long time and even recommend longer delays than 30-60 seconds.
The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping for Your Baby
Studies have shown an overall improvement in neuro-development for children whose parents opted for delayed clamping. This includes fine motor skills and social skills.
Less chance for anemia
By choosing to delay clamping for up to three minutes after birth, you reduce the risk of anemia in your little one’s first year of life! Holy smokes, this is reason alone. Anemia in a newborn is pretty dang severe and can lead to lifelong issues in learning delays, behavioral problems, and more.
Why? The extra few minutes allows all the good stuff to head from mom to baby.
Remember, the blood flowing to the baby from the placenta is full of nutrients including; oxygen, iron, and stem cells.
Delayed cord clamping increases the chance of improved iron levels, which leads to my first point — enhanced mental and physical development.
Total blood volume
The placenta holds about 1/3 of your baby’s total blood volume. If the cord is clamped immediately after birth, then guess what? They start life with 2/3 of their blood volume. Unless they need to be resuscitated, then this is bonkers to choose!
Can you imagine donating 1/3 of your blood volume and taking your free movie ticket from the blood bank? HELL NO!
By allowing the baby to take their blood volume with them, we improve their clotting factors, increase their platelet levels, and boost their circulation.
Come on people!
Allowing the stem cell rich blood to transfer to the baby from the placenta after birth is a no-brainer. Delayed cord clamping improves all the baby’s systems, but the immune system improvements are critical. Immunity is an integral part of protecting our babes.
I could go on and on about the benefits of delayed cord clamping. Surely you see the point and hopefully, have been spurred on to research more about this topic.
Delayed Cord Clamping and Emergency Support
I want to stress, again and again, one important key factor: When you enter the hospital for the birth, you are putting your trust into your caregivers. This is why you should carefully interview your provider early in pregnancy. Finding out at birth that your values don’t align is not cool.
You have rights, for sure, but you should also trust the education and wisdom of your nurse and doctor. Let them know your birth preferences early on, but also let them know you believe in them. If you don’t trust them, then change providers.
That being said, if you choose delayed cord clamping, then you should understand when it is not the best choice for a newborn. If your newborn comes out and needs to be resuscitated for any reason, then allow the team to do their job. Lack of oxygen to the brain is not to be messed with at all.
Delayed cord clamping holds no benefit to a baby who is not breathing.
Delayed Cord Clamping and C-sections
The benefits of delaying clamping the cord are beneficial for both vaginal and Cesarean births. Again, this is a must to discuss with your providers before you are running to the operating room for a C-section. Be sure to include it in your birth preference plan.
Cord Blood Banking
The effect that cord banking has on delayed clamping is time and amount of blood the baby will be able to get from the placenta. If you plan to bank your cord blood, then the delayed time has to be shortened somewhat, but it can be done.
However, ACOG recommends that delayed cord clamping should not be altered by choosing cord blood banking. The benefits of delayed cord clamping are too valuable to be messed with and outweigh the chance of using banked cord blood.
Delayed Cord Clamping and the Risk of Jaundice
There is a slightly increased risk of your baby having jaundice but the risk is so slight that the recommendation for delaying cord clamping still remains.
This is your birth, and I am a total advocate for patients’ rights. It’s your right to be insistent when it comes to things such as minimal interventions, skin to skin, protecting your golden hour, and delayed cord clamping. If you don’t educate yourself on all these things, then you will be swayed to choose what others want for your birth.
Pretend you are planning your wedding. Would you show up and let someone else dictate what your wedding day entails? Heck no!
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