The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping For Your Baby

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When I delivered my first baby, and even my second, third, and fourth, I have to admit that I really didn't put a whole lot of thought into the lifeline that connected my babies to me--or, in other words, their umbilical cords. 

Aside from assuming that my husband would be the one to cut the cord and then learning how to care for the cord until it fell off, I didn't really give the umbilical cord another thought.

But as it turns out, maybe I should have. 

If you are expecting a baby or planning to add another baby to your family soon, you might want to discuss the benefits of delayed cord clamping with your pregnancy care provider. 

A change in policies

Recently, a midwife in Great Britain made national headlines for pushing to change the policy in her country for doctors and other care providers to clamp a baby's umbilical cord immediately. The midwife, Amanda Burleigh, worked with Dr. David Hutchon, an obstetrician, to push for policy change in their country to delay clamping the umbilical cord after a baby is born. And her campaign was successful. Last month, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence changed its guidelines and now recommends that all OB care providers wait between one and five minutes after the baby is born to allow the blood from the umbilical cord to reach the baby before clamping and cutting the cord.

More specifically, the NIHCE recommends waiting at least until after one minute and before five minutes. The organization also joins the World Health Organization in supporting delayed cord clamping. 

So the World Health Organization and the United Kingdom both support delayed cord clamping, but what about the United States?

Should the U.S. change their guidelines?

Well, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists isn't quite convinced that delayed cord clamping is a sure bet. In their official opinion, there isn't enough evidence to support that all doctors and care providers should delay cord clamping just yet. "Although many randomized controlled trials of term and preterm infants have evaluated the benefits of immediate umbilical cord clamping versus delayed umbilical cord clamping (generally defined as umbilical cord clamping performed 30–60 seconds after birth), the ideal timing for umbilical cord clamping has yet to be established and continues to be a subject of controversy and debate," they declare

Benefits of delayed cord clamping

The ACOG does admit that there are proven benefits of delayed cord clamping in some situations, especially for premature infants. The benefits of cord clamping include:

  • Higher hemoglobin levels for babies
  • Higher iron levels for babies, lasting through infancy. Higher iron may also prevent anemia, which has been linked to learning deficiencies and other developmental delays. 

Considerations

Only time will tell if the U.S. will change their policies towards delayed cord clamping, but in the meantime, it is definitely worth it to have a conversation with your care provider about the benefits and considerations. And keep in mind that delayed cord clamping might not be ideal for every situation, such as babies that may need special care immediately after birth or parents wishing to store or donate their baby's cord blood

Sources:

Clamping of the Umbilical Cord and Placental Transfusion (Scientific Impact Paper No. 14). Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists. Accessed online: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/sip14/. 

Optimal timing of cord clamping for the prevention of iron deficiency anaemia in infants. World Health Organization. Accessed online May 12, 2015: http://www.who.int/elena/titles/cord_clamping/en/. 

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Accessed online May 12, 2015: http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Timing-of-Umbilical-Cord-Clamping-After-Birth. 

Effect of delayed versus early umbilical cord clamping on neonatal outcomes and iron status at 4 months: a randomised controlled trial. British Medical Journal. Accessed online May 12, 2015: http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7157. 

Delayed Cord Clamping in Very Preterm Infants Reduces the Incidence of Intraventricular Hemorrhage and Late-Onset Sepsis: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. (April, 2006). Accessed online May 12, 2015: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/4/1235.short. 

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