Susannah Birch is a certified birth doula, journalist, and owner of Trimester Talk, a leading pregnancy website.
Delayed cord clamping is, simply, not cutting the umbilical cord after birth till it has done its job.
Your placenta and baby are one functioning unit; the placenta acts in a similar way to a kidney dialysis machine by filtering the baby's blood and returning it to the baby's body. At birth, the placenta is still full of your baby's blood.
Cutting the cord early means your baby may lose up to a third of its own blood supply which is still in the placenta.
A person on a kidney dialysis machine would not be disconnected from the machine till all their blood was returned to their body; why disconnect a baby early?
How Is Delayed Cord Clamping Beneficial To Your Baby?
Delaying cord clamping increases your baby's iron stores, lowers the risk of anaemia and asthma and decreases complications following birth.
Some sources also say it also lowers the risk of autism, cerebral palsy, hypovolemia, hypotension, ischemia, shock, shock lung, respiratory distress, oliguria, hypoglycemia, ischemic encephalopathy, mental retardation; neural, behavioral and developmental disorders.
During the trip down the birth canal, a large portion of the baby's blood is stored in the placenta so the baby can more easily make the trip down the small space and can conform its shape as needed. Once the baby is born, they receive a much needed natural transfusion of blood from the placenta, rich with oxygen, stem cells and iron.
What If My Doctor Won't Do Delayed Cord Clamping?
In most countries, a woman legally cannot have a medical procedure performed without her permission. Even in medical emergencies, if the woman refuses treatment or a procedure, the doctor cannot perform it unless he wants to risk legal action.
Talk to your doctor and let him know what you want to do. If you're not sure who'll be delivering your baby, make sure you have an informed support person or doula available to make your wishes known.
How Is Delayed Cord Clamping Performed?
Once the baby is born, they remain attached to the cord. The cord is not clamped or cut - it is simply left to transfer the remainder of the baby's blood from the placenta through to the baby's body. The majority of the blood is transferred in the first 5-15 minutes after birth, although there are different variables (location of placenta, type of birth, temperature) which can cause the blood to transfer in different time frames. The pulsations in the umbilical cord are caused by the baby's heartbeat, and once these have ceased, it means the placental circulation has ceased and the cord can be clamped and cut.
During this time the mother can hold the baby and bond and rest after the birth. If the delivery was natural, the cord clamping can be delayed till the placenta is delivered if the birth attendant is happy to do so.
The umbilical cord is made of a substance called Wharton's Jelly. This amazing jelly, when exposed to the changes in temperature outside the womb, is designed to clamp the cord naturally once all the blood has been transferred to the infant. As shown in the images below, the cord naturally goes limp and white after the blood transfer is complete.
In What Situation Can Delayed Cord Clamping Not Be Performed?
There is rarely a situation in which delayed cord clamping is not beneficial; in fact if a baby is born with a nuchal cord (cord around the neck), prematurely or with breathing difficulties, delayed cord clamping is even more beneficial in helping them have the healthiest start to life.
If the baby is not breathing when they're born, allowing the cord to continue pulsing means that they're still receiving oxygen through the cord, lowering the risk of problems related to lack of oxygen.
However in some emergency situations, medical personnel may not be trained or have equipment available to allow the baby to remain attached to the cord while still receiving emergency care.
There are also rare instances in which it may not be safe for the cord to be left intact. These include placental abruption (the placenta disconnects from the uterine wall too early), the cord has been damaged or there is a rare blood condition effecting mother and baby.
Can Delayed Cord Clamping Be Done For A Caesarean?
Having a caesarean birth does not mean delayed cord clamping cannot take place. There are many ways to allow blood transfer from the placenta in these cases, including:
- Removing the placenta along with the baby, so the two can remain attached for as long as needed (also the method used in a lotus birth.)
- "Milking" the placental blood towards the baby.
- Holding the baby below the level of the placenta for 30-60 seconds to speed transfer.
- Keeping the cord warm (via a towel) to allow it to fully dilate and transfer blood.
- Once the baby's head is delivered, the baby can be left partially in the uterus as they are given any required resuscitation and allow the cord blood to transfer.
The Pitocin (Syntocinon ) Placental Delivery Needle & Delayed Cord Clamping
If you're planning to have the pitocin (also known as syntocinon ) needle to help in delivery of the placenta (instead of a psychological third stage, where no needle is given), you'll need to wait till the baby has had the cord clamped and cut. This is because the needle aids the uterus in contracting, pushing out the blood at a faster rate, which can cause issues with blood transfer to the baby.
Can I Do Cord Blood Storage & Delayed Cord Clamping?
The two are, for the most part, mutually exclusive. Either the baby gets all the blood from the placenta, or it all goes into a bag for storage against future health problems.
Cord blood storage is expensive (ranging into the thousands) and less than 1% of the stored blood is ever used. Why not give your baby this very important blood instead?
Would you have a kidney removed and stored simply on the off chance that you'd have more use for it later than today?
Other Delayed Cord Clamping Resources
- Cord Blood Storage & Use
Why spending thousands of dollars on cord blood storage is a waste of money when many issues could have been avoided at birth.
- TICC TOCC - Wait 90 seconds.
TICC TOCC Improving the health of billions by strategically spreading a simple idea. The Problem Anemia hinders a quarter of the global population, and is disproportionately concentrated in low-income groups. Iron deficiency is the leading cause ...
- Leaving A Baby's Umbilical Cord To Stop Pulsating (Delayed Cord Clamping)
A Facebook page dedicated to promoting delayed cord clamping, as well as giving links and information from doctors and medical studies.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Theresa on August 26, 2019:
This is the most important concept that could add value to life. I wonder if it is known by all who deliver babies in developing countries.
BenjiRoss on June 09, 2019:
It's now 2019, a few years after you wrote the hub, and delayed cord clamping (they now call it deferred cord clamping) is recommended in most situations. There are only a few things to probably add on to this hub even after these years.
It's mostly done for about 1-3 minutes
Cord milking is still not proven to give an added benefit.
Susannah Birch (author) from Toowoomba, Australia on March 08, 2018:
@Concerned nana to be - till the 1920s, delayed cord clamping was standard practice. You'll find that many obgyns and hospital guidelines are now recommending it as standard practice. It's really something that is physiologically normal that was removed from standard practice and is now being brought back.
Concerned nana to be on March 03, 2018:
All of my children are perfectly fine and we never delayed cord clamping never heard of such and my babies had sufficient blood supply none had any problems. The babies of the world have survived without such as this for decades. The LORD decides what the babies health and Wisdom is gonna be it's already in his plans before the baby is ever created. Leave the Drs work to the Drs. A doula / midwife is not a dr and does not have the training an obgyn does.
Alex on June 07, 2016:
Actually just informing you the dialysis filters all the excess fluid off of a person. Typically people on dailysis don't have functioning kidneys, and they usually don't pee a normal amount, so it filters out all of the extra fluid and toxins. If you've never seen dailysis in progress you'd see that there are sugary solutions and the solutions go in and pull extra fluid off the person, never should there be blood. I am trained to work and hook people up on dialysis. Plasmaforosis does however take blood out.
Theresa Jonathan from Maseru, Lesotho on August 07, 2014:
Very helpful hub. I wonder how many medical doctors know about this and are ready to update mothers-to-be not to be anxious when this procedure is delayed!
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 09, 2014:
Great info! I sure would have never known. Interesting too and I wonder if hospitals follow these rules. Sounds as if it could mean much! Thanks. ^
Hannah & the Runts from Wilmington, NC on May 08, 2014:
There are ads for cord blood banking beside and beneath your hub :( That's kind of ridiculous. (I know it's not your fault)
But anyway, really well written and detailed! I wish more people knew about this.
Michelle on February 11, 2014:
I'm a Medical Laboratory Technologist in a hospital and I run blood tests on newborn babies all the time. Babies haemoglobins are naturally so high that they don't lose the amount of blood this article seems to imply that they do. If it was true, I would be seeing anaemic newborns ALL the time (which I don't). Millions of babies have been born without this delay and just as healthy. Personally I think cord blood banking is the best thing to do with the cord blood. If your child gets leukaemia or another illness years later that may have benefited, you may be wishing you had done differently and stored the blood. And if you don't choice to bank it for yourself, you can publicly donate it and it can be used to save the life of someone who is suffering right now.
Rose Browne on January 27, 2014:
Wonderful article! In my first pregnancy I did not know the importance of delayed cord clamping and now that I am pregnant with my 2nd child I plan on doing so. Your hub was so informative and much appreciative. Thanks for sharing the info!
Aquene from Charlotte, North Carolina on January 13, 2014:
Great hub, thank you! I wanted to do delayed cord clamping however my delivery became complicated and I ended up having an emergency c-section eliminating that option. Willfully it will work out for me next time.
Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on September 27, 2013:
Fantastic hub! I wanted to delay clamping, and the midwife did so as long as she could. The cord was very short though, and my daughter had a large amount of fluid in her lungs. They suctioned while she was still attached, then clamped and cut so they could continue working with her. It wasn't ideal, because the cord was too short for me to hold her, but she did get about five or so minutes worth of cord blood before they clamped. Sharing and voting on this hub. It is great information for moms and dads!
Nancy McClintock from Southeast USA on September 12, 2013:
Well Written Thank you for sharing. Voted up.
Mirmana from AMSTERDAM on August 22, 2013:
Fantastic hub! I never knew about this before reading you hub and you gave me an excellent explanation. I do believe my midwife waited, but I was in galloping on a unicorn over pink clouds with my daughter after birth, so I might have missed it.
Alise- Evon on August 04, 2013:
This was really interesting and useful. Thank you so much for sharing this. It will give a lot more babies a better start to life.
LongTimeMother from Australia on August 03, 2013:
This is a fabulous explanation, wrylilt. Voted up and sharing it to help spread the word. :)
Maja Dali from Slovenia on June 24, 2013:
Hi! Thank you for information! I haven't heard of delayed corp clamping before!
Susannah Birch (author) from Toowoomba, Australia on June 05, 2013:
Moronkee, as you'll see stated in the hub, the short term possible side effects aren't the only issue. There can be a range of long term effects as well.
Moronke Oluwatoyin on June 05, 2013:
Thanks a trillion. I have learnt an amazing fact in your hub. However, I have seen umbilical cords cut immediately the baby is born and they look healthy without any complications.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 10, 2013:
Here is something that I have never heard of. And I read oodles of stuff when I was pregnant (all those years ago). Yet this seems like such a simple and obvious practice. I wish I was pregnant. (haha only kidding) Gonna share this one!
Susannah Birch (author) from Toowoomba, Australia on April 23, 2013:
Peachpurple, the idea is to NOT detach the umbilical cord straight after birth as it can do more damage than good.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on April 23, 2013:
now i understand why all doctors detach the umb cord immediately after birth. Thanks for the hub. Thumbs up
Josh on April 14, 2013:
This is something I never thought of, but it did happen at the birth center we went too. I did not question anything, or even think about it till now. This is very important to learn about for the next child we have. I will keep researching it, thank you.
Jacqui from New Zealand on November 03, 2012:
Hmmm, not something I had thought about doing. Now, it's something I will talk to my partner about....though getting pregnant first may be the key first!
Chewy Mommy on October 30, 2012:
Excellent information! I really wish I had known about this before my kids were born. Both of their cords were clamped right away, although the doctor did milk the cord. If I had known about this I would have asked them to wait until the cord stopped pulsating. I voted up!
tinkerbelle78 on October 24, 2012:
Great information! Thank you! I'm a natural childbirth advocate and I strongly suggest leaving the cord intact until it has stopped pulsating. Most people do not realize the danger in cutting it too soon, which is typical hospital procedure.
Dr.S.P.PADMA PRASAD from Tumkur on October 04, 2012:
Avery useful hub on an unknown aspect of child health. Perhaps in 90% of cases, it is cut earlier. now we can discuss with doctor and know more about this.Thanks
Melvin Porter from New Jersey, USA on October 04, 2012:
WryLilt, this is a very interesting and useful hub on a procedure performed everyday in hospitals. This is information every woman should be aware during delivery of their babies. Voted up.
livingsta from United Kingdom on October 04, 2012:
Wow, this is something I have never heard of. Thank you for sharing this valuable information! Great hub! Voted up, awesome! Sharing!
Aficionada from Indiana, USA on September 21, 2012:
I'm definitely passing this article along to my daughter who is due in about a month. I remember that, with my babies, the information I read told that in case of an emergency delivery without benefit of medical personnel it was important to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before it was cut.
But I don't remember whether this mentioned waiting to clamp the cord. I also don't remember what the doctors actually did when mine were born. This is important information to have. Thank you for posting it!
Chris Naish from Cardiff UK on September 15, 2012:
I just came across this hub by chance after seeing something you wrote in the forum, I'm happy I did but also a little gutted!
My daughter was born just under 6 weeks ago and I would have asked about this procedure had I known before the birth.
Well, she is all healthy anyway but like you said, you like to give them the best start you possibly can.
Sasha Kim on September 10, 2012:
Wonderful explanation of delayed cord clamping! With both my babies I was able to delay clamping until the cord stopped pulsing, which took around 10 minutes. Now my son is 3 years and my daughter is 8 months. Neither of them have EVER been sick. I attribute it to delayed cord clamping and breastfeeding. Giving them the best start possible really makes a difference in the rest of their lives. Fantastic hub! Voted a bunch!