In those first crucial minutes immediately after the birth of your baby (during the “Third Stage of Labour”), something important is happening – or rather is suppose to happen. When your baby is born, if all is well, they should be placed immediately on your body for skin to skin care. During this time the placenta is still inside of you and will remain so typically anywhere between 5-30 minutes (sometimes up to 60 minutes).
Did you know?
Between 30 – 50% of your infant’s blood volume is still in the placenta and the umbilical cord continues to pulsate, pushing the blood from the placenta into your baby?
Though there are records dating back thousands of years debating when or how the baby’s umbilical cord should or shouldn’t be clamped and severed, it is generally agreed that around 1913 in Western medicine it became standard practice for all Obstetricians and even many Midwives to clamp and cut the umbilical cord immediately within a few seconds after birth and this practice spread across the world.
The practice of Immediate Cord Clamping “ICC” was based on several beliefs/theories:
Unfortunately, these theories (and many more) were not supported by research and evidence!
Today the research shows us that there are huge benefits for Delayed Cord Clamping (DCC) which many argue should be called “Optimal Cord Clamping” (OCC).
Delayed Cord Clamping / Optimal Cord Clamping means waiting for the cord to stop pulsating before clamping and cutting.
The research also shows that there are no risks to mother and baby if cord clamping is delayed and in fact, babies are put at risk if the umbilical cord is clamped too early.
So, what has changed?
Well, we now know how the umbilical cord works! Inside the cord is a substance called Wharton’s jelly that protects the blood vessels within the cord. Once your baby is born the Wharton’s jelly starts to cool down to room temperature the cord pulsations begin to slow down. The jelly then hardens and clamps the cord itself.
Umbilical cords clamp themselves!
How long should I wait to clamp the cord?
Generally, the cord takes 2-3 minutes to finish its strong pulsations. You will hear different advice but parents can choose for themselves. We know that even letting the cord pulsate just 30 seconds has benefits and lower risks of short and long-term health complications to babies.
What if I am planning to do Cord Blood Banking?
Will my health care provider support my choice to do Delay Cord Clamping?
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists -
World Health Organization
So go ahead and put it in your birth plan/preference list and talk to your health care provider about it!
Dr. Alan Greene “90 Seconds to Change the World”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw53X98EvLQ
History of Cord clamping/cutting: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3423128/
Common Objections to Delayed Cord Clamping - What's The Evidence Say?:
Penny Simkin on Delayed Cord Clamping: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3RywNup2CM
When Exactly Should the Cord be Cut after Birth
Delay Cutting the Cord: Study
Sarah Baker is a co-owner of Lifetime of Love Doula Services and has been supporting families for 6 years as a birth doula, postpartum & infant care doula and childbirth educator. She is mom to three boys, twins and a singleton.
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