What is Delayed Cord Clamping?

Delayed Cord Clamping Newborn baby with clamped Umbilical cord Birth Doula OKC

 When a baby is born, they only have a partial amount of their blood supply. Having a reduced amount of blood helps make a baby’s birth an easier process because less blood means a little baby to be born! Amazingly, after a baby is born & is meeting their parent(s) for the first time, the placenta pumps 1/3 of baby’s blood supply back into their body! This is as long as the umbilical cord is not clamped or severed. Delayed Cord Clamping is when the cord is not clamped or cut until the baby receives their blood and the cord is white. In this blog, I will discuss the benefits and potential risks of choosing to delay your baby’s cord from being clamped so that you can make an informed decision. 

While many hospitals are making Delayed Cord Clamping a standard of care, some hospitals may clamp & cut a baby’s cord in the first 10 seconds after birth, preventing the baby’s full blood supply from returning to the baby. Even ACOG recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping in vigorous term and preterm infants for at least 30–60 seconds after birth. By delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord by at least one minute or until the umbilical cord is white, parents can give their baby an immense brain and cardiovascular boost! This is why a practice called ‘Delayed Cord Clamping’ is an important, maybe even a critical option to consider for any birth.

The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping

    1. Babies receive critical iron and stem cells from placental blood which increases their iron storage and benefits the development of their brains. 
      The World Health Organization recommends delayed cord clamping of “not less than one minute” but mothers may opt to choose to cut the cord after it has stopped pulsating” (World). Waiting until at least a minute to clamp and cut the unbiblical cord has shown to “improve iron status in the infant for up to six months after birth (World). It is critical that babies have the iron and stem cells found in placental blood in order to increase their iron storage and develop healthy brains.

    2. Long term brain, cardiovascular, and developmental benefits. the blood that babies receive via delayed cord clamping increases their blood volume by up to 30%, which directly benefits their blood pressure, breathing, and circulatory system.

    3. Increased social skills and fine motor skills. A neonatologist at Brighton & Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom found that “children whose cords were cut more than three minutes after birth had slightly higher social skills and fine motor skills than those whose cords were cut within 10 seconds” (Haelle).

    4. Lower incidence of iron-deficiency anemia at 4–6 months of age.  This is an especially important benefit for children in countries where iron-deficiency anemia is highly prevalent.

Premature Babies benefit from Delayed Cord Clamping Most of All

These benefits listed above are particularly significant for preterm infants. Delayed cord clamping is associated with “fewer transfusions for anemia or low blood pressure and less intraventricular hemorrhage than early clamping” for premature infants (Rabe). Preemies whose parents have delayed cord clamping also “tend to have better blood pressure in the days immediately after birth, need fewer drugs to support blood pressure, need fewer blood transfusions, have less bleeding into the brain and have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening bowel injury” (Haelle).

Premature male infants were especially positively affected by delayed cord clamping practices by showing high iron counts and less cardiovascular distress than babies who had their cord cut in the first 10 seconds after birth (Mercer). 

it doesn’t matter whether the baby is full-term, preterm, male, or female, they have a chance to be positively affected by the delayed clamping of their umbilical cord. The positive effects of a baby getting their full blood supply after the journey of being born shows in their health and development from the moment of birth and beyond. 

Delayed umbilical cord clamping is the current standard of care for newborn management at delivery. The extended time between delivery and umbilical cord clamping allows for a higher quantity of placental blood to reach the newborn.

The Risks of Delayed Cord Clamping

“There is a small increase in the incidence of jaundice that requires phototherapy in term infants undergoing delayed umbilical cord clamping. Consequently, obstetrician-gynecologists and other obstetric care providers adopting delayed umbilical cord clamping in term infants should ensure that mechanisms are in place to monitor and treat neonatal jaundice.” (ACOG)

Making an Informed Decision

The key to making an informed medical decision for you and your baby is to gather as much information as you can. It is not that you do not trust your care provider, the goal is that you understand completely what your options are so you can make informed decisions. Considering all of your options will help you make the decision that is right for you.

The best way to become educated on your options is by working along with your doula to create a Birth Preferences List. This is also commonly called a Birth Plan. When creating a birth preferences list you will come across some decisions that require more in-depth research. It may be difficult to locate helpful resources, especially in the midst of your pregnancy. This is where I can alleviate the stress of making informed decisions!

As a doula, I take joy in providing my doula families with unbiased information on each option available to them, so that they can make informed decisions & enter their birth experience feeling empowered. I support my doula clients in their decisions trusting that they know what is best for their family.

Please read over this article and follow the additional resources in order to decide if Delaying your baby’s cord clamping would be right for your birth preferences list.

If you do wish to delay umbilical cord clamping,  discuss it with your midwife/OBGYN and doula so that everyone in your birth team is aware of your wishes for the baby. Most of the hospitals in the OKC metro area are practicing delayed cord clamping as a standard of care, but it is always good to be diligent in making sure your voice is heard about what you want for your baby.

Additional Resources on Delayed Cord Clamping

OKC Birth Doula Jenni Jenkins

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma City Bereavement, Birth, & Postpartum doula and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community.   She is also a midwifery assistant with Holistic Birthing Services and began her journey as a student midwife with the Midwives College of Utah in 2022. 

Jenni is also the creator & facilitator of the Kaleidoscope OKC LGBTQ Family Support Group & the Nurture Oklahoma Live Interview Series.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.