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Optimal cord clamping

With many options for birth, my role is to remain impartial, to provide research, sign post couples to information so that they can make an informed decision on what’s best for them and baby. I try not to push one option over another, as there’s usually no right or wrong. One of the few exceptions is cord clamping. When to cut the cord can have some very real effects on baby, and it’s important to know the benefits of waiting to clamp and cut the cord and why.

Historically, the baby’s umbilical cord, the cord that connects baby to the placenta, which has fed and sustained baby for 9 months, would have been clamped and cut immediately after birth. This practice is no longer recommended. It is instead recommended that you wait at least 1-2 minutes, ideally longer until the cord is white, drained of blood and has stopped pulsating, before cutting. At birth, 1/3 of the baby’s blood sits in the placenta. By cutting the cord immediately, you deny baby this 1/3 blood volume which belongs to them, meaning it only has 2/3 of the blood volume it should have in its‘ body. By waiting until the cord is white and thin, you allow time for the placenta to pass this vital blood volume to the baby.

Benefits of waiting to cut the cord include:

  • Helping baby establish breathing and circulation

  • transfer of up to a billion stem cells, which baby can use to heal any part of their body and helps their immune system

  • Up to 6 months worth of iron stores (a deficiency of which can lead to neurological developmental delays)

  • Less chance of breathing difficulties

  • Less chance of infection

Immediate cord clamping has been shown to cause developmental and social delays as well as anaemia by 4 months old. Unless there is a medical emergency which indicates the cord needs to be cut sooner, the cord should be left in tact for as long as possible to allow the store of blood in the placenta to pass to the baby. This is an important point to make in your birth plan. If you’d like to read more about the benefits of optimal cord clamping, you can find some reliable articles and research references below.


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