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.
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.
During the trip down the birth canal, a large portion of the baby’s blood is stored in the placenta so the baby can more easily make the trip down the small space and can conform its shape as needed. Once the baby is born, they receive a much needed natural transfusion of blood from the placenta, rich with oxygen, stem cells and iron.
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.
In What Situation Can Delayed Cord Clamping Not Be Performed?
There is rarely a situation in which delayed cord clamping is not beneficial; in fact if a baby is born with a nuchal cord (cord around the neck), prematurely or with breathing difficulties, delayed cord clamping is even more beneficial in helping them have the healthiest start to life.
If the baby is not breathing when they’re born, allowing the cord to continue pulsing means that they’re still receiving oxygen through the cord, lowering the risk of problems related to lack of oxygen.
However in some emergency situations, medical personnel may not be trained or have equipment available to allow the baby to remain attached to the cord while still receiving emergency care.
There are also rare instances in which it may not be safe for the cord to be left intact. These include placental abruption (the placenta disconnects from the uterine wall too early), the cord has been damaged or there is a rare blood condition effecting mother and baby.
Can Delayed Cord Clamping Be Done For A Caesarean?
Having a caesarean birth does not mean delayed cord clamping cannot take place. There are many ways to allow blood transfer from the placenta in these cases, including:
- Removing the placenta along with the baby, so the two can remain attached for as long as needed (also the method used in a lotus birth.)
- “Milking” the placental blood towards the baby.
- Holding the baby below the level of the placenta for 30-60 seconds to speed transfer.
- Keeping the cord warm (via a towel) to allow it to fully dilate and transfer blood.
- Once the baby’s head is delivered, the baby can be left partially in the uterus as they are given any required resuscitation and allow the cord blood to transfer.
The Pitocin (Syntocinon ) Placental Delivery Needle & Delayed Cord Clamping
If you’re planning to have the pitocin (also known as syntocinon ) needle to help in delivery of the placenta (instead of a psychological third stage, where no needle is given), you’ll need to wait till the baby has had the cord clamped and cut. This is because the needle aids the uterus in contracting, pushing out the blood at a faster rate, which can cause issues with blood transfer to the baby.