Delayed Cord Clamping:
Benefits & Teaching Tools
A bundle of blood vessels, the umbilical cord is an amazing piece of anatomy—the lifeline between mother and fetus.
During pregnancy, the umbilical vein carries nutrients and oxygen from the placenta to the developing fetus, and two umbilical arteries carry deoxygenated blood and waste products back to the placenta. After birth, the umbilical cord continues to supply blood from the placenta to the newborn until it is clamped and cut or is clamped and cut after it stops pulsating, which may take up to 5 minutes after a baby’s birth.
When should cord clamping typically occur? Common practice has changed over time. Today, however, most health organizations and healthcare professionals recommend delayed (or deferred) cord clamping, allowing more time for the placenta to supply blood to the newborn through the umbilical cord.
Read on to learn more about delayed cord clamping and to discover some of our great Childbirth Graphics childbirth education materials that are ideal to discuss delayed cord clamping with expectant parents as they create their birth plans.
What Is Delayed Cord Clamping?
Prior to the mid-1950s, it was common to wait until the umbilical cord stopped pulsating before it was cut, usually between 1 and 5 minutes after birth. However, research at the time suggested that about 90 percent of a baby’s blood volume had been obtained within the baby’s first few breaths after birth, and it became standard practice to clamp the cord just after birth, typically within 15 to 20 seconds.
Studies have suggested that waiting or delaying cord clamping benefits babies because it provides more time to build a baby’s blood volume, sometimes by up to a third. Many health and physician organizations recommend waiting at least 30 to 60 seconds before umbilical cord clamping. The World Health Organization recommends for clamping to be delayed for at least 1 minute. Some organizations may recommend waiting 2 minutes or longer, until the cord stops pulsating.
What Are the Potential Advantages of Delayed Cord Clamping?
Delayed cord clamping increases a newborn’s blood volume. The extra blood volume can help a newborn make the transition to life outside the womb. Breathing can be easier because the lungs get more blood, aiding the exchange of oxygen. Delayed cord clamping also increases iron stores in the first months of life, decreasing the risk of anemia. Iron is important for a baby’s brain development, and studies suggest that babies with optimal iron levels may perform better on neurodevelopmental tests as they get older.
Delayed cord clamping may also provide preterm babies with important health benefits. These benefits include better circulation, improved volume of red blood cells, and lower risk of some complications associated with prematurity, such as bleeding in the brain and serious intestinal problems.
What Are the Potential Risks of Delayed Cord Clamping?
It has been suggested that delayed cord clamping may increase the risk for certain conditions, such as jaundice and elevated red blood cell counts in infants and postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Studies suggest that any increased risk of jaundice or elevated red blood cell counts in infants is slight and easily treatable. Research has shown no increased risk of maternal postpartum hemorrhage with delayed cord clamping.
In certain situations, delayed cord clamping might not be appropriate, such as if delayed cord clamping would interfere with an immediate birth complication or medical need for either mother or baby.
Childbirth Graphics Tools to Teach About Delayed Cord Clamping
Childbirth Graphics has ideal teaching tools for childbirth educators to use as they discuss cord clamping with expectant parents. Expectant parents may wish to inquire about the cord clamping policy at their birthing facility and discuss their particular wishes with their healthcare professional.
When used with one of our Fetal Models (available in dark brown, brown, and beige skin tones), our Placenta/Cord/Amnion/Chorion Model is a great model to discuss cord clamping. The Fetal Model and the Placenta/Cord/Amnion/Chorion Model can be attached and detached from each other with the sewn on snaps.
Designed for teaching expectant parents about the types of equipment that might be used during labor in a hospital birth, our Labor and Birth Accessories Teaching Kit features seven types of labor and birthing equipment, including an umbilical cord clamp.
With 57 color images covering newborn multiple aspects of newborn appearance, procedures, and reflexes, our Healthy Newborns Flip Chart, Bilingual features images of the umbilical cord and cord clamping while highlighting newborn cord care.
Discover More Childbirth Educator Essentials
We’ve got more great teaching tools covering a full range of childbirth education topics from pregnancy hazards to labor and birth, breastfeeding, and much more. Find just what you need by browsing our childbirth education product categories.
The information contained in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.
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