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What is Delayed Cord Clamping?

Delayed cord clamping lets more blood flow from the placenta to a newborn baby directly after birth. Here’s how it works.

Published by Anja Health on

August 22, 2022

— Updated on

August 22, 2022

The umbilical cord is one of the most amazing parts of childbirth. It connects the developing baby to the placenta, which collects blood and nutrients from the birthing parent and filters out potential toxins before passing them to the baby. Once the baby is born, that lifeline is no longer needed. The cord is clamped in two places and then cut in the middle.

Once the cord is clamped, the blood flow between the birthing parent and baby stops. The little one is officially a separate being, alive in the world.

It's common for medical professionals to clamp and cut the cord within seconds of birth. That's often an exciting moment for the family. Still, it may prevent the baby from receiving some of the most nutrient-rich blood within the umbilical cord.

This quick guide will help you understand delayed umbilical cord clamping and why it may be advantageous for newborn babies.

A quick definition

Delayed umbilical cord clamping involves waiting to clamp and cut the cord after a baby is born. Scientists have debated the optimal timing of cord clamping for over a century. Generally, "early" cord clamping occurs in the first 60 seconds after birth (usually within the first 15–30 seconds). "Delayed" cord clamping usually occurs more than one minute after the birth or when cord pulsation ceases.

The time that passes before a baby's cord is clamped depends on various factors. The baby's health, time constraints on the doctors and nurses, and requests of the new parents are some of the more prominent factors considered.

What are the benefits?

There is still blood circulation from the placenta to the baby for the first few minutes after birth. Waiting to clamp the umbilical cord for two to three minutes, or until the quits pulsating, allows a complete transfer of placental blood to the infant, offering potential benefits. 

This placental transfusion provides iron stores to the baby for up to six months after birth. This may be particularly helpful for babies and families in low-resource settings who may have less access to iron-rich foods and a greater risk of iron deficiency anemia. Children need lots of iron during periods of growth, like the first two years of life, to support their psychomotor development and cognitive skills.

Delayed cord clamping may also reduce the risk of infant mortality in the hospital. Some studies have shown that delayed cord clamping and proper preparation can lower the chances of preterm infants needing blood transfusions or intubation while in the delivery room.

Benefits for preterm infants

Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have poorer outcomes than infants at term. Still, delayed cord clamping may support the transition and improve outcomes. Umbilical cord milking (gently squeezing and slowly pushing the blood through the cord) may also increase placental transfusion for preterm infants.

A review of 48 studies that involve nearly 6,000 premature infants and birthing parents shows that delayed cord clamping with immediate neonatal care may reduce the number of babies who die before discharge (compared to early cord clamping). Results also suggest that delayed cord clamping may reduce the number of children who die or have neurodevelopmental impairment in their early years.

Summary of benefits of delayed umbilical cord clamping for infants (term, preterm/low birth weight) and birthing parents

Are there any risks?

Some potential risks come with delayed cord clamping. Still, there is little scientific evidence that these concerns are valid.

The most significant assumed risk for a long time was hemorrhaging for the birthing parent. Research has shown no increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage or increased blood loss when cord clamping is delayed a reasonable amount of time.

Another anecdotal risk is that the cord blood will flow to the baby at a slower rate or reverse in the cord entirely if the baby is placed too high, such as on the mother's chest or stomach. Research shows that the direction of umbilical flow is unrelated to the cessation of umbilical cord pulsations.

Some medical conditions and circumstances are contraindications for delayed cord clamping. Your doctor will let you know when delayed cord clamping may be unsafe, given the specifics of your delivery. For example, an emergency delivery with an immediate need for medical intervention would make delaying cord clamping impossible.

Is banking cord blood still an option?

Yes, cord blood banking is still an option even if you request delayed cord clamping. Your healthcare team will monitor and give your baby extra time to receive more cord blood while ensuring enough is left to collect. With Anja Health, you can delay for a maximum of two minutes and then bank the rest of your cord blood for future cell treatment options.

Start your pregnancy journey with Anja Health

Delayed cord clamping can give your baby a healthy advantage in the first few minutes of life. If you want to extend those protections to the rest of your baby's life, consider collecting and banking cord blood, cord tissue, and/or placenta tissue at the time of birth. Saving your cord blood ensures access to the most personal source of stem cells for future treatment options.

Anja Health's cord blood and tissue collection services make banking valuable stem cells easier and more affordable than ever. Learn about our collection kits online today.

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