When to clamp the umbilical cord after birth has been a subject of debate among medical professionals.
The latest research shows that the age-old practice of clamping an infant’s umbilical cord seconds after birth can be detrimental to the baby, depriving them of much needed benefits from the placenta. This practice can put babies at an increased risk of birth injuries and other health problems.
The Right Time to Cut the Umbilical Cord
Although the timing varies according to the hospital or birthing center, a vast majority of doctors agree that cutting the umbilical cord early reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging. The average time of clamping the cord is about 30 seconds after the birth. However, studies conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) involving 382 low-risk pregnancies show that there is no change or effect on postpartum hemorrhaging when clamping was delayed.
Another reason why early cord clamping is widely practiced is because it is believed that healthy newborns have around 90 percent of the blood volume required after taking their first breaths. This was based on studies conducted before 1960. More in-depth research has been conducted and found that this is not true for every newborn and most newborns lose out on vital nutrients the placenta still provides immediately after birth.
Risks Associated with Premature Umbilical Cord Clamping
The biggest risk associated with premature cord clamping is blood loss. According to medical experts, irrespective of whether the baby is born preterm or full-term, a third of a baby’s total blood volume is in the placenta. A recent study on timing of umbilical cord clamping indicates that premature cord clamping can lead to a loss of up to 50 percent blood cells of babies in fetal distress and up to 30 percent of blood cells in normal deliveries with no complications. Premature umbilical cord clamping also can lead to oxygen loss, which combined with blood loss can expose the infant to a variety of health problems including:
- cerebral palsy
- poor social and emotional skills
- poor cognitive skills
- brain hemorrhaging
- respiratory distress
Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
Delayed cord clamping may ensure better blood and iron levels and provides a host of other benefits such as decreased risk of intraventricular hemorrhaging, infant sepsis, and anemia. Delayed cord clamping has also been linked to higher birth weight.