Going into labor, I knew that I wanted our midwife to delay cord clamping. There were a couple of reasons why this was such a top priority for me. Doctors routinely cut and clamp the umbilical cord less than a minute after birth. Through research and my birthing classes, I learned that when the umbilical cord is cut so soon after birth, blood is still trapped in the cord and placenta; and is cut-off from flowing to the baby. If cord clamping is delayed even by just a few minutes or until the cord stops pulsing, additional blood volume is transferred to the baby, which gives the baby extra iron, oxygen, and antibodies. Iron deficiency is a leading cause in anemia and also can have a negative impact on a developing brain. The World Health Organization estimates that by solving iron deficiency or anemia, productivity in a developing nation would increase by 20%.
Productivity was not a factor in my choice to delay cord clamping, but I wanted my baby to get as much iron and oxygen as possible. Typically, 90% of the blood volume is transferred to the baby within his/her first few breaths of life, but I wanted to ensure that I didn’t prematurely intervene with that process(maybe that comes from my overachieving days of preferring to score a 95%-100% on a test, but I wanted more, if more was easily achievable). Besides, an umbilical cord is usually done pulsing within 2-5 minutes, so it’s not like you’re waiting forever for it to be cut. Here’s how simple delayed cord clamping looked like for me.
When my baby girl was born, the midwife immediately placed her on my chest and began cleaning her off/checking her out, etc. While baby hung out on my chest, the cord was intact and continued to pulse. Granted, the length of the cord determined how far up she was placed on my chest, but we enjoyed skin-to-skin contact during the process. I wasn’t even aware of the cord or thinking about it. My attention was on my newborn baby. Sometime between 5-7 minutes after she was born, the midwife got the tools out and asked my husband if he was ready to cut. That was it. Now, some doctors who do delayed cord clamping still practice holding the baby at vagina level so gravity can help the blood continue to flow. New research, however, has concluded that the cord continues to pump blood even while the baby is on the mother’s chest.
Delayed cord clamping is an area you should research for yourself and talk to your doctor or midwife about. You may determine it’s an extra little benefit you can give your baby.
By Holly M.