When to clamp the umbilical cord after birth?
This was a question that I never considered during my residency training. We always clamped the cord almost immediately after delivery usually within 10-20 seconds. There are now studies that show that babies may benefit from delayed cord clamping. In 1 minute after delivery the baby gets 80ml of blood from the placenta. This extra blood decreases the risk of the baby having anemia or low iron and decreases the risk of a blood transfusion. Small studies even show an improvement in long term brain function like social skills and fine motor skills. It is especially beneficial in preterm babies because it decreases the risk of bleeding into the brain, and lowers the risk of bowel damage. What are the negatives? It can increase the risk of the baby having jaundice and having to go under photo lights at the hospital. We use to worry that it would increase the risk of mom bleeding after delivery but recent studies do not support this fear.
So what do I do now? More studies need to be performed, but my current practice is to delay the clamping of the cord by approximately 1 minute as long as it is safe for the mom and the baby. Every delivery is unique and must be treated as such. After the baby is born I will put him or her on your tummy and wait to clamp the cord until it stops pulsing or about 1 minute. Dad can then cut the cord if he chooses. Please talk to your provider if you have any further questions.
Kara Jefferies, M.D