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“Delayed” vs. “Optimal” Cord Cutting

There has been a lot of attention on what most are calling “Delayed Cord Cutting”… I am hearing it more in my childbirth classes as well as on blogs and from my birth clients. The evidence is building… what we “thought” we were doing right now for about 100 years (clamping and cutting the cord immediately after the baby is born) may actually be doing babies HARM.

Briefly, the evidence is suggesting that by allowing the cord to continue to pulse (for approximately 90 seconds or so after the birth), the baby receives an additional 1/3 of their blood volume. Key ingredients in this additional blood include iron, and red and white blood cells. What do we see as an outcome of “delayed” cord cutting? Babies at 3-4 months don’t have the same problems with iron deficiency that we see in babies who had their cords cut immediately. Red blood cells carry iron, and white blood cells fight infection. Those all seem like critical things to a newborn’s health.

In addition, that “extra” 90 seconds or so continues to provide oxygen to your new baby, just like it has for the last 9 months of pregnancy. Many babies need a little time to transition from womb to¬† world- and that includes “figuring out how to breathe”. Many babies would not be oxygen deprived if we simply allowed the cord to keep doing it’s job.

So what’s the argument FOR immediate cord cutting? I am still hearing OB’s locally tell parents “it’s not safe”, “the baby will get too much blood”, or even “I can do that but I’ll have to hold the baby even with the placenta” (ie I cannot put the baby onto you Skin To Skin, another topic). Unfortunately, non of these common responses are evidence based. Parents have a right and responsibility to seek out accurate information and to communicate with their care providers about what they want for their newborns– and to find care providers who will support their wishes.

So shall we call it “Delayed”… or shall we call it “Optimal”? You decide.