The terrible twos, the angsty teens, the homesick college student. Parents often look to the clock to characterize the milestones in their children’s life. They spend 18 years nurturing their kin, desperate for them to grow out of their diaper stage yet dread them growing into their licensed-driver era.
This time is important. It defines and shape’s much of a child’s life. And yet, despite all these years, one of the most influential moments in a person’s life happens in a matter of seconds.
Before making their grand debut into the world, babies are connected to their mothers through the umbilical cord. It serves as the baby’s “supply line,” according to March of Dimes, “because it carries the baby’s blood back and forth, between the baby and the placenta. It delivers nutrients and oxygen to the baby and remove the baby’s waste products.”
Despite the important role the umbilical cord plays during pregnancy, it is notoriously clamped and cut once the baby is born. The “life line” is no longer needed, and the cord is removed close to the stomach, revealing a precious belly button in a matter of weeks.
This practice has been universally performed for centuries, yet recent research shows that refraining from immediately clamping and cutting umbilical cords can give newborn babies a healthy boost.
The term is known as “delayed cord clamping,” and it is championed by medical experts and deemed standard practice at many hospitals.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends “a delay in umbilical cord clamping in vigorous term and preterm infants for at least 30-60 seconds after birth.” This allows more time for beneficial blood cells to enter through the cord and get to the baby, gifting newborns an extra boost of iron in their first few weeks of life.
In a matter of seconds, this seemingly minor decision can have a monumental impact on tiny humans.
“Delayed cord clamping allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, sometimes increasing the child’s blood volume by up to a third,” according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). “The iron in the blood increases the newborn’s iron storage, which is vital for healthy brain development.”
Regardless of how long one has been alive, everyone needs iron. Scientists affirm it’s a key player in the creation of hemoglobin, “a type of protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of the body,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. “Without enough iron, there aren’t enough red blood cells to transport oxygen, which leads to fatigue.”
The woes of iron deficiency, commonly known as anemia, are believed to be decreased with delayed cord clamping, with the World Health Organization noting a 61% reduction in the rate of anemia requiring blood transfusion with this practice. In allowing an increased transfer of iron to babies before they’re born, the APA notes it can reduce “the risk of the baby suffering from the severe side effects associated with iron deficiency, like cognitive impairment and central nervous system problems.”
Babies who reap the benefits from delayed cord clamping are often full-term and vigorous (a term that describes newborns who are moving, crying and “pinking up” with blood flow after delivery). However, mothers birthing babies with heart rate, breathing or color abnormalities, or need NICU treatment, usually do not opt for this.
With the abundance of decisions to make from the moment a pregnancy test shows two lines, every expecting mother should consult their caretakers to pursue a personalized treatment plan that’s best for them and their baby. As you navigate through your pregnancy journey, consult your doctors to decide if your baby could benefit from the boost unique to delayed cord clamping.
5 Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
1. DECREASES THE RISK OF ANEMIA
2. LESS NEED FOR SUPPLEMENTAL OXYGEN
3. LOWER RISK OF INFECTION
4. STABILIZED INFANT BLOOD PRESSURE
5. INCREASES BABY’S OVERALL BLOOD VOLUME