Delayed cord clamping is, simply, not cutting the umbilical cord after birth till it has done its job.
Your placenta and baby are one functioning unit; the placenta acts in a similar way to a kidney dialysis machine by filtering the baby’s blood and returning it to the baby’s body. At birth, the placenta is still full of your baby’s blood.
Cutting the cord early means your baby may lose up to a third of its own blood supply which is still in the placenta. Cutting the cord immediately means baby’s body is immediately at a disadvantage, fighting to do all the things it needs to do after birth without full blood supply.
A person on a kidney dialysis machine would not be disconnected from the machine till all their blood was returned to their body; why disconnect a baby early?
How Is Delayed Cord Clamping Beneficial To Your Baby?
Delaying cord clamping increases your baby’s iron stores, lowers the risk of anaemia and asthma and decreases complications following birth.
Some sources also say it also lowers the risk of autism, cerebral palsy, hypovolemia, hypotension, ischemia, shock, shock lung, respiratory distress, oliguria, hypoglycemia, ischemic encephalopathy, mental retardation; neural, behavioral and developmental disorders.
What If My Doctor Won’t Do Delayed Cord Clamping?
In most countries, a woman legally cannot have a medical procedure performed without her permission. Even in medical emergencies, if the woman refuses treatment or a procedure, the doctor cannot perform it unless he wants to risk legal action.
Talk to your doctor and let him know what you want to do. If you’re not sure who’ll be delivering your baby, make sure you have an informed support person or doula available to make your wishes known.
How Is Delayed Cord Clamping Performed?
Once the baby is born, they remain attached to the cord. The cord is not clamped or cut – it is simply left to transfer the remainder of the baby’s blood from the placenta through to the baby’s body. The majority of the blood is transferred in the first 5-15 minutes after birth, although there are different variables (location of placenta, type of birth, temperature) which can cause the blood to transfer in different time frames. The pulsations in the umbilical cord are caused by the baby’s heartbeat, and once these have ceased, it means the placental circulation has ceased and the cord can be clamped and cut.
During this time the mother can hold the baby and bond and rest after the birth. If the delivery was natural, the cord clamping can be delayed till the placenta is delivered if the birth attendant is happy to do so.
The umbilical cord is made of a substance called Wharton’s Jelly. This amazing jelly, when exposed to the changes in temperature outside the womb, is designed to clamp the cord naturally once all the blood has been transferred to the infant. As shown in the images below, the cord naturally goes limp and white after the blood transfer is complete.1 | 2