The umbilical cord is your baby's life-line, while in the womb. It carries blood between the baby and placenta, and transfers oxygen and nutrients to help your baby grow. Once a baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed. Years ago, providers simply clamped and cut the cord right away. But more and more providers have begun seeing the benefits of delaying cord cutting for two or three minutes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Obstetric Practice states on its website (www.acog.orgm) that delayed clamping may offer benefits for full-term and pre-term babies, including increased hemoglobin levels and iron stores.
Preemies receive even more benefits, such as "improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and intraventricular hemorrhage," the site states.
The placenta holds about a third of baby's blood. Cutting the cord immediately means the blood still in the placenta isn't able to get back to the baby. Fetal blood is a rich source of stem cells, which are important for the growth of numerous body system. Cutting the cord immediately means that a third of those stem cells end up in the trash.
With all the important reasons for waiting, why do providers still persist in clamping and cutting right away?
It does take a little time (two to three extra minutes) and busy providers may not want to pause for that long when they're attending several births at once.
It's also been the tradition to cut the cord right away. Psychologically, providers want to end the birthing process once the baby has been delivered and clamping and cutting immediately represents the last step.
Delayed cutting slightly raises the risk of jaundice. Although carefully monitoring for jaundice can ensure it's treated promptly.
Clamping is thought to prevent postpartum hemorrhage; however, studies have indicated that clamping later doesn't provide any negligible risk.
Ultimately, the choice to cut sooner or cut later is up the mother. Discuss your wishes with your health care provider and make sure that you express your decision in your birth plan.