There are endless theories about the best way to give birth, ranging from how much pain medication to take to what music you should play in the delivery room. Even something as seemingly simple as cutting the umbilical cord is open for discussion, with some proponents touting the benefits of a short delay. What do the experts say? For now, these are the recommended times for clamping the cord after birth.
Why Delay, Anyway?
Pregnant women develop the placenta to provide oxygen and nutrients to the baby and remove waste from the baby’s blood. Once the newborn takes their first breath, there’s no need for the umbilical cord to connect them to the placenta. Traditionally, this is the sign to clamp the cord and invite the mother’s partner to cut it. But studies have shown that delaying this action can increase hemoglobin levels in the newborn and improve iron stores for months.
Are There Drawbacks?
A delay in clamping the cord can increase the chance that the newborn will experience jaundice due to the extra toxins in the bloodstream. The delivery doctor watches for this possibility, which they can treat with photo or light therapy. Delaying can also complicate the process of collecting cord blood if the parents have elected to store the baby’s stem cells. While it’s possible to both delay clamping and collect cord blood, there may be fewer stem cells present in the time window.
What’s the Official Word?
Opinions are changing as experts analyze more and more data, and ultimately the decision is up to the parents and their doctor. And for preterm babies, the recommended times for clamping the cord after birth may be different, as they seem to benefit significantly more from clamping delays. For now, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that doctors delay between 30 and 60 seconds before clamping. The World Health Organization, though, is looser with its guidance. It says that clamping between one and three minutes is best.