When a child is born, the practice of cutting the umbilical cord right away has become a standard practice in the field of medicine. An alternative option, called “delayed cord clamping,” may provide certain benefits to the newborn with manageable risks.
The process is rather simple. Instead of clamping or cutting the cord immediately, it is not cut or clamped until after all pulsations have ceased. In some instances, the cutting or clamping may not occur until after the placenta has been delivered. It is an option that has become widely available, but may need to be communicated to an attending physician for it to be performed.
The primary advantage of delayed cord clamping is that it does not reduce the blood volume for the newborn during the birthing process. Each baby receives a full complement of red blood cells, immune cells, and stem cells. That is because the placenta and the cord contain about one-third of the newborn’s blood.
The primary disadvantage of delayed cord clamping is that it can reduce the amount of bankable cord blood that is available. Cord blood can be stored indefinitely for future treatments the newborn may require. It can also be donated for scientific research or for treating other people who may have few options available to them.
Here are some of the additional key points to this about with these delayed cord clamping pros and cons.
List of the Pros of Delayed Cord Clamping
1. There may be neurological benefits.
A delayed cord clamping may only offer a few extra minutes of blood flow, but those few minutes could provide a lifetime of differences. Significant improvements in neurodevelopment can occur, including higher IQ levels, social skills, and motor skills follow this procedure, especially when it is performed on boys. Boys also see improvements with writing skills with this procedure.
2. It decreases the risk of anemia.
There are many forms of anemia. One of the most common types of anemia that affect newborns is a lack of iron in the blood, called iron deficiency anemia. By delaying the clamping or cutting process, additional iron (along with other needed minerals) can transition from the placenta to the newborn. This fuels the newborn’s red blood cell supply, providing better oxygen transport throughout the body. Mothers who struggle with iron deficiency anemia should speak to their attending physician about the pros and cons of delayed cord cutting because of this benefit.
3. It can help with poor blood circulation.
A delayed cord clamping can help a newborn establish a healthier level of blood circulation. It also reduces the need for blood transfusions because there is enough blood for the newborn after the birthing process. Even a 30-second delay in clamping or cutting can be enough to reduce the need for a transfusion. For newborns with poor circulation concerns, a 3-minute delay can improve the outlook for the child.
4. The time investment is minimal.
Some attending physicians may not recommend a delayed cord clamping because of the time commitment that is required for it. The reality of this procedure is that most newborns require 5 minutes or less of delayed cord clamping or cutting to maximize the benefits of this procedure. Half of the blood in the placenta can be transferred to the newborn with a 60-second delay.
5. It provides longer skin-to-skin contact.
Skin-to-skin contact between newborn and mother can provide tremendous health benefits for both parties. For newborns, it can regulate their heartbeat. For newborns who are premature, a delay also decreases the danger of a brain bleed occurring.
List of the Cons of Delayed Cord Clamping
1. There is an increased risk of jaundice.
The risks of experiencing jaundice with delayed cord clamping are almost doubled. Children with early cord clamping experience a 3% risk of having liver health issues. By comparison, children with delayed cord clamping have a 5% risk of suffering from a similar issue. Newborns that show immediate liver health concerns should generally not receive a delayed cord clamping or cutting.
2. It creates an obstruction.
Some children are born with breathing concerns that require immediate intervention. Delayed cord clamping would create a potential obstruction in the resuscitation efforts that may be required on a newborn. Some doctors see the delay as an advantage, so it is a good idea to discuss what their preference happens to be in case the unexpected happens.
3. There is an increased backflow risk.
Although the concern is unlikely, there is a chance that a delayed cord clamping could result in a blood backflow. When the placenta and umbilical cord function properly, the flow of blood goes from the placenta to the newborn. Backflow pushes the blood from the newborn back to the placenta. That is why births that have complications to them usually have an early cord clamping or cutting performed.
4. Cord entanglement becomes a risk.
The average umbilical cord is about 20 inches in length. During the birthing process, it can seem to have a life of its own. It can wrap around the baby, become knotted, and cause all sorts of problems. By delaying the cord being cut or clamped, there is an increased risk of the cord becoming a health risk. Careful management can often reduce or eliminate this risk, but a nuchal cord discovery will almost always require the cord to be cut.
5. Not every child may benefit from it.
Delayed cord cutting is usually reserved for newborns being born into higher-risk situations. Newborns that are premature or have a health risk associated with their mother may benefit from this procedure. For the average newborn with an uncomplicated delivery, there are usually more benefits from banking the cord blood instead of delaying the umbilical cord being cut.
6. There is an increased risk of disease transmission.
Some diseases are transmitted to a newborn through the placenta and umbilical cord. Mothers with HIV or AIDS, for example, would not want a delay in the cord clamping because that would increase the risk of disease transmission. Other diseases include Hepatitis and virus-based illnesses that would not benefit from a delay.
7. There may be a bleeding risk to the mother.
Although the risk is very minimal, there could be a bleeding risk to some mothers who have clotting issues. There may also be an increase in red blood cells in the mother’s blood that can be problematic, especially in a pregnancy which involves multiples.
These delayed cord clamping pros and cons show that many newborns could benefit from small delays. Just 30-60 seconds may be enough to provide a lifetime of benefits to the child. There are certain risks that must be managed and the procedure may not be right for every situation, so be sure to discuss your individualized pros and cons with your doctor before making a final decision.