There are a few types of medical interventions involved in labour and childbirth. Some are necessary, while some are optional. Delayed cord clamping is a practice that has drawn attention and gained popularity recently. However, do its benefits outweigh the risks?
What is Delayed Cord Clamping?
Once your baby is delivered, the doctor will clamp the umbilical cord in two places- near the belly button of your baby and further down the cord, and cut the cord between these clamps. This procedure is usually done immediately after the successful delivery of your newborn. Meanwhile, in delayed cord clamping, doctors will clamp and cut the umbilical cord one to three minutes after birth instead.
This allows more blood transfusion from your placenta to your baby, and possibly increasing your baby’s blood volume by one third. As this practice became more popular, more research was conducted on the benefits and risks of Delayed Cord Clamping.
What Research Says
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) states that delayed cord clamping is beneficial for full-term and especially preterm babies born from mothers who had a successful delivery without complications.
A medical review conducted in 2013 found an association with delayed cord clamping with increased haemoglobin levels (60% increase in red blood cell volume) and iron levels (additional 40-50mg) in full-term infants, which can help decrease their infants’ risk for anaemia. Another study in 2015 done on 263 4-year olds found that children who scored slightly higher on social skills and fine motor skills assessment had their cords clamped at least three minutes after birth, as compared to children whose cords were clamped in less than 10 seconds after delivery. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), delayed cord clamping helps to improve blood circulation in premature babies, besides decreasing the need for blood transfusions.
Delayed cord clamping is also beneficial for mothers. According to the ACOG, delayed cord clamping does not affect the risk of postpartum haemorrhage, while WHO suggests that delayed cord clamping may shorten the third stage of labour (to deliver the placenta), and also reduce the chances of retained placenta.
Previous medical research suggests that delayed cord clamping is possible regardless of delivery (i.e. caesarean or vaginal delivery). Currently, research on mothers with multiple births is promising but limited- suggesting that there are no current known adverse effects of delayed clamping for multiple births and preterm twins.
However, delayed cord clamping should be avoided if there is a need for immediate resuscitation of the baby if the mother is bleeding heavily after giving birth, which requires a blood transfusion, or if the baby is not breathing, or if the doctor is concerned about the mother’s or baby’s condition that requires immediate medical attention. In most cases, delayed cord clamping is recommended, but you should always consult your doctor for a professional medical opinion, based on you and your baby’s condition.