Delayed cord clamping could be a life-saver

Posted in Labour & Delivery and tagged .

newborn umbilical cord stk

If you feel as though you’re being asked to make a barrage of decisions surrounding the birth of your baby, you’re not wrong. The beauty of giving birth in a country like Australia is the fact that you have the right to make a lot of informed choices about what happens before, during and after childbirth.

Delayed cord clamping is one of the things you’ll probably be asked about and we explain what you need to know about it.

What is delayed cord clamping?

When you birth your baby, he or she will still be attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord. At some point, this cord must be cut.

The original school of thought was that this cord needed to be clamped and then cut as soon as possible after birth, sometimes even before the placenta had separated from the uterus. More recent research suggests, however, that it may be beneficial to delay clamping and cutting the cord until around three minutes after birth.

The current recommendation by the World Health Organisation is to wait between one and three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord. At this stage, the Australian medical system does not have a definitive position regarding cord clamping but will usually offer mums the choice.

What are the benefits of delayed cord clamping?

Baby with a fever cuddling mum

By delaying clamping the umbilical cord, more blood is able to flow from the placenta, directly into your baby. This placental blood is very rich in iron and studies have shown that the extra blood received via delayed cord clamping improves babies’ iron stores for the first six months of life.

Iron is one of the few essential minerals that babies can’t get exclusively breastfeeding and this is why, by three to six months old, most babies begin to run down their iron stores.

A study also suggests that there is also a potential benefit to brain development. Babies whose cord clamping was delayed have been shown to have more myelin in the brain. Myelin is used by the nervous system to form neural pathways and facilitates the fast transmission of neural impulses between nerve cells.

It’s also thought to be particularly beneficial for premmie bubs as the additional blood may reduce the need for blood transfusions. Additionally, it can help to provide them with some well-oxygenated blood if their little lungs are struggling to open up for the first time.

Are there any cons to delayed cord clamping?

Newborn baby

Delayed cord clamping can slightly increase the risk of your baby developing jaundice, a condition which may have bub looking a little, well, yellow. This is because an increase in blood elevates a compound in the body known as bilirubin. Too much bilirubin can overload the liver and cause jaundice. Babies are routinely monitored for this condition regardless of whether delayed cord clamping was performed. Jaundice in newborns is also usually very treatable.

A La Trobe University study indicates that delayed cord clamping has not been shown to make any difference, or pose any risk to the mother with regards to blood loss or potential haemorrhaging.

The only other thing you really need to consider is whether or not you were planning to bank or donate your baby’s cord blood. If this was something you wanted to do, often delayed clamping doesn’t leave enough cord blood to be saved.

It’s a good idea to discuss this with your obstetrician who will be able to help you weigh up the pros and cons of each scenario.

What if I have a caesarian section?

Newborn baby in hospital

Assuming all goes well with the delivery, there is no reason you can’t request delayed cord clamping if you’ve had a c-section. The only reason it may not be possible is if your baby needs immediate help with their breathing, or you are experiencing excessive bleeding.

Can my partner still cut the umbilical cord?

Dad cuddling a newborn on his shoulder

A lot of people really enjoy the experience of being as involved in their child’s birth, and the opportunity to cut your baby’s umbilical cord is a great way to do this. Don’t worry, the umbilical cord has to be clamped regardless of who is going to do the cutting. Usually, your obstetrician or midwife places two clamps on the cord and you’ll be asked to cut between the two of them. Delayed cord clamping has no impact on your ability to be able to do this.

The great thing about delayed cord clamping is that not only is there lots of research to help assist in your decision-making process, it also doesn’t have to change the way you want to birth your baby. Regardless of how or where you give birth, delayed cord clamping is definitely an option you can consider.

If you’re ever concerned or have any questions, make sure you touch base with your birth team.

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