Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Delayed Cord Clamping

When Tye was born, we delayed clamping the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing about 8-10 minutes after her birth.  It was a precious time- unlike all the Hollywood movies that depict a rush of medical interventions and hurried instructions to the dad to quickly cut the cord, when Tye arrived, she and I sat in the warm water in the tub while Tyler and I soaked up the reality of our Baby Girl's transition.  
In this photo, Tye is still attached to me via her umbilical cord, which is still pulsing and bringing precious blood from the placenta into her body.
The benefits of delayed cord clamping are significant.  Being the type of person who believes our bodies were created to work in ways we still don't fully understand and certainly can't replicate, delaying cord clamping allows the body to function as it was designed.  Certainly women long ago didn't birth their babies themselves and immediately instinctively cut the cord.  

Even with medical interventions available now, clamping the umbilical cord early removes the protection provided by the cord.  If the baby requires a little encouragement to begin breathing on her own, as long as she is connected to the placenta via her cord, her body is still receiving oxygen-rich blood, just as it was in the womb.  By delaying cord clamping 5 minutes and allowing the placenta to finish pumping blood back into the baby's body, the result is 61% higher blood volume than in a newborn with immediate cord clamping.  At four hours after birth, a baby who received delayed cord clamping has higher hematocrit levels and a red cell volume 60% greater than those who had not.  Now, new research out of Sweden this week shows that infants provided delayed cord clamping have higher iron levels and lower incidence of iron deficiency at 4 months of age.  That cord blood is the gift that keeps on giving.

Of course, there are situations in which the mother and baby need to be separated immediately to save the life of one or both.  Simple prematurity isn't reason enough, however. In infants with very low birth weight, delayed cord clamping reduces incidence of intraventricular hemmorhage and late-onset sepsis.  Delaying cord clamping combined with kangaroo care provides better outcomes for even very premature babies.  The idea that the infant needs to be whisked away to NICU isn't always based on the best information possible; rather, when asked why delayed cord clamping isn't practiced, doctors cited "difficulty with implementation in clinical practice."  Those precious minutes that could potentially save a newborn's life and at the very least protect the newborn for months after birth are eliminated to save time.  How tragic.

Tyler did eventually cut Tye's umbilical cord once it stopped pulsing.  As soon as she was dried, Tye was laid on my chest, skin to skin, and began nursing as I delivered my placenta.  In awe of the organ that had sustained my Baby Girl for 38 weeks, I begged Tyler to take pictures.  

Our bodies were created with far more in mind than speed and convenience.  As more research is done on the implications of birth interventions, we're learning that cutting corners and changing the natural route of birth can cause more harm than good.  But it would be foolish to think that the only advantages of delayed cord clamping are those measured by science.  Our family was afforded ten minutes of beautiful bonding time uninterrupted by outside influences.  Tyler and I gazed at our Baby Girl in utter awe.  Then, at the moment Tyler clipped Tye's cord, I remember coming to a sudden realization that my baby was being fully separated from me for the first time.  I know I wouldn't have been able to savor that moment in the same way had it happened in the seconds following the birth.  Looking back, the peace in those still minutes after birth were precious time for us to bond and together admire the miracle in my arms.


  1. Thank you for this. I know that cord blood is really important in the sense that it's a shame to let it go to waste, but I thought that banking and donating were my only options. I had wanted to donate with Harrison, but didn't realize I needed to request a collection kit to bring to the hospital. Being more educated this time, I was all set to donate Baby Boy 2's cord blood, until I read this. I'm still considering donating to a public bank, because I know if either of my boys ever get sick to a point where they could benefit from cord blood, I would want to do it, and I'd want other people to have that option as well. And obviously public banks can't run if people don't donate. But I hadn't realized there were any other options, and I'm really glad I have more information now, in order to make a better decision.

  2. You bring up a good point about the cord blood banks, Whitney. It's unfortunate that a donation requires all cord blood- wouldn't it be great if we could donate a portion? Or if somehow the blood could be taken later from the placenta? There's information out there on how delayed cord clamping prevents the very illnesses that are treated by cord blood- you might be interested in researching that as you continue to weigh your options.
    Hope you're feeling well :)


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