The baby is finally here, one look at him makes mom fall instantly in love with her bundle of joy. The last thing on mom's mind is that long, slippery umbilical cord that's connected to her baby and her placenta.
After mom has bonded with her baby and looked over him to make sure there are 10 fingers and 10 toes, she has to decide what to do with the temporary life support system. The umbilical cord that had oxygen, blood, nutrients and waste flowing through it. For most mothers, the cord is something of the past that's no longer needed.
But, in reality, the umbilical cord can still play a very important. It still has some benefits mom should consider.
The umbilical cord can continue to offer babies valuable and vital health benefits. The cord carries vital stem cells, including red and white blood cells that continue to provide babies a healthy start to their life. Clamping or cutting the cord too quickly can be the difference between a baby getting some much needed nutrients and blood supply and being cut off too soon from important stem cells that can deter illnesses and improve health.
New mothers should consider this process before the decision is made by healthcare providers, many of which cut the cord immediately after birth. Make sure to do some research and make the best decision when the time comes. Research has shown that there are advantages and disadvantages of delaying or not delaying clamping of the umbilical cord. Here are some of these pros and cons.
One reason why clamping the umbilical cord may be cut quickly is if your baby is experiencing breathing difficulties. If resuscitation is needed, the umbilical cord is more likely to be cut quickly. One reason may be simply to remove any obstructions that can get in the way of resuscitation efforts.
However, there are some doctors that choose to keep the umbilical cord intact during resuscitation efforts because it provides necessary nutrients, helps increase blood supply and boosts the lung’s capabilities. Other considerations doctors will take into account is if it’s comfortable for the baby to still have the cord attached.
Is it obstructing suction efforts or access to their organs. If they’re able to draw blood from the cord during resuscitation efforts. There are times when doctors will choose to cut the cord quickly in order to perform life saving procedures on the child. At that point, whatever advantages of keeping the cord intact is not worth risking the child’s life.
Although this is unlikely to happen in an uncomplicated birth, one reason not to delay cord clamping is backflow. This is where the blood flows from the baby, back to the placenta. Usually the blood flows in only one direction, from the placenta to the baby.
Backflow technically could happen if the baby bears down when they begin to cry for the first time or during uterine contractions.
Normally, as the baby cries for the first time, their pulmonary arteries open and fill with blood. This sudden change causes the newborn's blood pressure to fall below the pressure of the pressure in the placenta. When this happens the placental blood will follow the pressure gradient and flow towards the baby's body.
As the newborn's oxygen levels increase, the umbilical arteries close, stopping flow from baby to placenta.
This is one of the most important reasons because neurodevelopment is one of the most important factors in your child’s development. It’s amazing the difference a few extra minutes can make. In this case, it can mean the difference of your child having higher social and fine motor skills than children whose cords were cut immediately.
These differences will show up later on in life but they can be significant. There was no difference shown as far as IQ levels but children with slightly higher social skills and motor skills tend to excel in their IQ levels. The study showed this is the case with boys for some reason.
But these male children whose umbilical cord remained attached longer were better with their coordination skills, including with writing and they were more sociable. Some believe this benefit does not apply to girls because they receive an extra layer of protection through higher estrogen levels while in the womb.
The reasons to clamp or clip the umbilical cord quickly are not as many as the reasons to not clamp it but there are some important reasons why doctors would want to cut the umbilical cord quickly.
There are times when the umbilical cord, which is about 20 inches in length, can get wrapped around the unborn baby’s neck while they twist and turn in the wound or while the baby is being delivered. This is called a nuchal cord. Umbilical cord compression is when blood flow is being disrupted because the cord has become entangled.
This doesn’t happen often, and is really a rarity. However, if this is the case doctors will clamp and cut the umbilical cord immediately to prevent further health issues with the baby. There are times when there are serious issues or malfunctions within the cord that may cause the doctors to clamp or cut the cord.
In the west, mothers have access to medicine, food and exercise that will keep them healthy through the duration of their entire pregnancy. As long as a woman is doing everything she can to stay healthy and listens to her doctor's advice, she should have a pregnancy free of complication and have a baby healthy enough that delayed clamping wouldn't really offer any additional benefits to their health.
While a premature baby can benefit from the delayed clamping, otherwise healthy babies don't benefit as there's not a whole lot that delayed clamping can offer them that they don't already have going for them.
Healthy babies can benefit from cord blood banking rather than delayed clamping. So in the west, it's more beneficial for mothers to consider banking the cord blood rather than delay the clamping.
Anemia is a condition where the blood doesn't have enough iron in the blood. Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the cells, without iron babies can be more tired than normal and their organs won't function properly, that can mean digestive problems, breathing problems, and the inability to filter the blood properly.
By delaying cord clamping, more iron can flow through the placenta and deliver more iron along with helping the baby's red blood cell supply. As we discussed earlier, establishing the red blood cell supplies means that the baby's cells can repair and regenerate easier due to the increased volume of blood.
So if mom had problems with her iron count leading up to birth, then it might be beneficial to the baby to delay clamping to ensure that all the iron and extra blood can help the baby since they might also suffer from anemia as well.
Donating the cord or keeping it in storage for later use can be a disadvantage to some when it comes to delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord. If the cord is attached to the infant for a period of time after birth, the baby is properly using all the necessary stem cells available, and the cord loses its purpose for later use.
Cord blood banks only benefit when the cord is cut immediately after birth, up to one minute after birth. Any length of time after that and the cord loses its benefits for future research. However, the benefits are reaped immediately through the baby instead of being stored for some possible later use that may or may not benefit individuals.
The purpose of the umbilical cord is to prevent losing valuable stem cells. If your baby can benefit from these stem cells, then let them keep what’s rightfully theirs in the first place.
There are some diseases that can be passed through the blood of the placenta, and this is bad for the baby who may not have the disease that their mother has.
For women with HIV, some doctor's don't recommend delayed cord clamping because the mother could pass her HIV infected red blood cells through the placenta and umbilical cord and into the baby causing the baby to become infected with the disease themselves. This is what's known as micro-transfusion.
On the other hand, some doctors feel the risk of micro-transfusion is worth the benefits of delayed clamping. 1-3 minutes of delayed clamping might benefit babies of HIV positive mothers because they will receive the stem cells and extra iron that will help them to grow healthier.
Other diseases that would make a baby ineligible for delayed cord clamping include: Hepatitis, West Nile, Cytomegalovirus, Human T-cell lymphotrophic viruses, and Parvovirus B19.
Delayed clamping can help a baby with poor circulation by helping the body better establish its red blood cell volume. Red blood cells help spread oxygen and is rich in nutrients for cell growth and healing. And through this established red blood cell volume there's less reason for infants to require blood transfusions.
One problem that some infants face is a possibility of necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition where the intestinal tissue dies and causes complications and as a result the person suffering from this disease needs a blood transfusion.
Once again it's the red blood cells to the rescue delivering everything the cells need to regenerate and be healthy. Only 30-60 second of delayed clamping is enough to lower the need for transfusions, it sounds unbelievable, but also encouraging.
Here are a list of excuses doctors may make to prevent delayed clamping of the umbilical cord. This excuse is meritless. It only takes several minutes, 3-5 minutes, of keeping the umbilical cord attached to provide the proper amount of stem cells to benefit the baby.
And since this is a new life entering the world in need of every viable source that helps their little bodies to develop properly, then the benefits outweigh any loss of time perceived by the doctors or the mother. Of course, most mothers wouldn’t think this is time-consuming if they knew the benefits of doing this.
One third of the baby’s total blood volume is located in the placenta at birth. Fifty percent of that is transmitted into the baby when the umbilical cord is delayed for one minute. Ninety percent of that blood is transmitted into the baby after three minutes.
Preemies can benefit a number of ways from delayed cord clamping. The first being that they have an extra connection to their mother through the placenta it allows them to have longer skin-to-skin contact time which greatly improves their health and helps regulate their heart beat.
The best reason to delay cord clamping for preemies involves the danger preemies have of bleeding on their brains. Delayed cord clamping means the blood coming from the placenta uses the stem cells and immunoglobulins to heal the baby's body to heal on its own. Prematurely born babies also require less transfusions after delayed cord clamping
Doctors have noticed in the difference in preemies who have had their cord clamping delayed by as little as 45 seconds. For anyone who is at risk of having a premature birth, they should definitely consider delayed cord clamping in the event that they go into labor early.
Research studies have shown no evidence supporting this view. There is really no connection at all between the umbilical cord remaining attached to the baby and this causing the mother to severely bleed. There is no association at all between the placenta and the cord which is attached to the baby causing harm to the mother.
In fact, the cord is specifically designed to benefit the baby while in the womb, not the mother. When it comes to the baby having an increase of red blood cells in their blood supply from this procedure, this can be a problem for the baby and can cause a disease called Polycythemia to occur.
This disease is a result of too many or an overflow of red blood cells being transmitted into the baby’s blood system. This is more likely to happen in twin births or babies who have some other condition that causes them to have an overproduction of red blood cells.