Delayed Cord Clamping: Your Complete Guide

As you start planning for birth and working on your birth plan, learning about delayed cord clamping is important. Delayed cord clamping is a mainstay in most natural birth plans of today and is even becoming common practice at most hospitals across North America.

Understanding the benefits of delayed cord clamping, why it’s important to advocate for it, and potential drawbacks to the practice is important for making an informed decision for your baby’s birth.

What’s more, you might be wondering if delayed cord clamping is possible during a c-section, how to include it in your birth plan and what scenarios might make delayed cord clamping impossible.

Well, mama, you are in the right place. Today we’re going to talk all about delayed cord clamping to help you decide if this birth practice is right for your baby!

What is delayed cord clamping?

Delayed cord clamping is the practice of waiting to clamp and cut the umbilical cord for 1 to 5 minutes after birth, or until the cord visibly stops pulsing. This allows for all the blood that was circulating through the placenta to return to baby’s body.

Delayed cord clamping is seen as the gold standard after birth, and it is recommended by WHO for all births whenever it is medically safe and possible.

Benefits of delayed cord clamping

Delayed cord clamping is considered best practice because of the significant increase in baby’s blood volume when its used. Delayed cord clamping results in up to 1/3 more blood volume at birth than in infants whose cord is cut immediately.

This increase in blood volume at birth results in greater iron reserves, promotes growth and development, supports a healthier immune system, increases hemoglobin and hematocrit level at birth, and increases brain myelination.

What’s more, delayed cord clamping is even more beneficial to premature babies. Let’s take a look at some more pros and cons below.

Delayed cord clamping pros and cons

Pros of delayed cord clamping

  1. Up to 30% higher blood volume than babies whose cord is immediately cut
  2. Up to 60% higher red blood cell counts
  3. Significantly lower risk of anemia
  4. Greater iron reserves that can last the first 6-8 months of life
  5. Increased stem cells which helps with growth and development
  6. Associated with less developmental delays related to social skills and fine motor skills than babies who had immediate cord clamping
  7. Better establishment of red blood cell volume
  8. Decreased need for blood transfusion
  9. Lower incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage
  10. Lower instance of necrotizing enterocolitis
  11. Lower risk of infection in preterm babies
  12. Associated with fewer days on oxygen and ventilation in preterm babies

Potential drawbacks and cons of delayed cord clamping

Remember, delayed cord clamping is the recommended practice because the pros are accepted to vastly outweigh the cons. However, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • Delayed cord clamping is often not possible if you are hoping to bank your baby’s cord blood
  • Delayed cord clamping slightly increases your baby’s risk of jaundice levels during their first week of life
  • Delayed cord clamping may not be possible in certain emergency situations

How long should you delay cutting baby’s umbilical cord?

Any time the cord is cut beyond one minute after birth, it is technically delayed cord clamping. Often, it is defined as cutting the cord between one and five minutes after birth.

However, to get the maximum benefits of delayed cord clamping, ask your provider to wait to cut the cord until it stops pumping blood on it’s own. By doing this, you are ensuring that baby is getting the most blood volume in their body and all of the benefits that come along with it.

How to include delayed cord clamping in your birth plan

Fortunately, with all of the research coming out about the benefits of delayed cord clamping for both preterm and full-term infants, delayed cord clamping is becoming more widespread and common. This is in large part because of the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists and the World Health Organization support and recommend the practice.

As you work on your birth plan:

  • Ask your provider about delayed cord clamping
  • Find out what is common practice surrounding cord clamping at your birthplace
  • Ask questions about why that’s the protocol
  • Find out if waiting until the cord stops pulsing is an option
  • Discuss the potential risks and understand when delayed cord clamping might not be possible
  • Inquire about delayed cord clamping and c-sections
  • Advocate for delayed cord clamping during your birth and include it in your written birth plan

Delayed cord clamping and C-sections

Many mamas who know about the benefits of delayed cord clamping wonder if it’s possible to do this during a c-section. You’ll be happy to know the answer is usually yes!

Delayed cord clamping is becoming the norm for c-sections, too. Even if you end up with an emergency c-section, chances are good that delayed cord clamping can be honored.

When is delayed cord clamping not possible?

As you have learned, delayed cord clamping is largely accepted as best practice after any birth, whenever possible. However, there are a few scenarios wherein delayed cord clamping may not be safe or possible. Let’s take a look:

  • Cord Blood Banking: if you are planning to bank your baby’s cord blood for potential future use, or for the healthcare needs of an immediate family member, you may not be able to delay cord clamping and collect enough blood. A delayed clamping of 30 second may be possible, but you’ll need to discuss the logistics of this with your provider. I also recommend carefully researching the pros and cons of cord blood banking vs. delayed cord clamping before making your decision
  • Baby needs resuscitation or other immediate medical attention: if baby isn’t breathing at birth, it may be important to clamp the cord quickly and get baby the medical attention they need. Interestingly, new research from 2019 supports the benefit of performing neonatal resuscitation with an intact cord because of the amazing support delayed clamping can provide to baby
  • Mama is losing a lot of blood: if you experience a postpartum hemorrhage or significant loss of blood during birth, it may not be possible to delay cord clamping

Delayed cord clamping is the way to go!

Delayed cord clamping is becoming the standard of care after birth because there is really no denying the benefits to baby. Whether they are preterm, a multiple, or a low-risk full term baby, research shows the advantages far outweigh the potential risks when it comes to delayed clamping.

Now that you’ve learned about this practice, be sure to advocate for yourself and include it explicitly in your birth plan. It’s true that more places have implemented this as standard practice, but it’s better to have all your bases covered.

Happy birthing, mama!




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