Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping

Doctor appointments, Google searches, and a growing list of questions. Does this sound familiar? As time goes on, your little bun in the oven is getting closer and closer to their due date, and the more time that goes by, the longer your list gets.  What delayed cord clamping? Why do it? And can I still bank my baby’s cord blood & tissue if I choose to do it?  

What is it?

The umbilical cord is the lifeline between mother and baby. Through the umbilical cord, the baby receives all the oxygen, nutrients, and blood the baby needs to grow and develop. Typically the umbilical cord is clamped shortly after birth (usually within 15–20 seconds).

With delayed cord clamping you are doing just that, delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord in order for more of that blood to flow to your newborn.

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “delayed umbilical cord clamping for at least 30–60 seconds is recommended in term and preterm infants except when immediate umbilical cord clamping is necessary because of neonatal or maternal indications.”

Why do it?

In the past, umbilical cord clamping was done right away in an effort to reduce maternal postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding after birth). The question is whether or not delayed umbilical cord clamping will increase the risk of maternal hemorrhage.

According to research, “delayed umbilical cord clamping was not associated with an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage or increased blood loss at delivery, nor was it associated with a difference in postpartum hemoglobin level or need for blood transfusion.”

Instead, studies in term infants have shown that a “transfer from the placenta of approximately 80 mL of blood occurs by 1 minute after birth, reaching approximately 100 mL at 3 minutes after birth”. This transfer of extra blood has shown significant benefits to your child.

Some of these benefits are “improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume and increased hemoglobin levels at birth and improved iron stores. This extra iron has been shown to reduce and prevent iron deficiency during the first year of life. Iron deficiency during infancy and childhood has been linked to impaired cognitive, motor, and behavioral development that may be irreversible”.

“A longer duration of placental transfusion after birth also facilitates transfer of immunoglobulins and stem cells, which are essential for tissue and organ repair. The transfer of immunoglobulins and stem cells may be particularly beneficial after cellular injury, inflammation, and organ dysfunction, which are common in preterm birth.”

Can I still bank my baby’s cord blood/tissue if I do Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping?

Yes, it is possible to do both. Cord blood can be collected regardless of when the cord is clamped.  Only about 50 milliliters (mL) of blood is necessary for cord blood storage, which is a fraction of the approximate 200 mL of blood contained in the placenta and umbilical cord. The more blood your doctor is able to collect the better.

If you choose to delay the cord clamping by 1-3 minutes, approximately 80-100 mL of this blood is transferred to the infant, leaving more than enough to be stored in a cord blood bank. 

Studies have shown that delayed clamping had no major effect on collection efficiency. While the amount of blood collected was slightly reduced, the stem cell recovery was not.