Monday, June 9, 2014

What’s the Hurry? The Benefits of Waiting to Cut the Umbilical Cord After Birth

We now know that if the cord is allowed to stop pulsating before being clamped and cut, the baby establishes normal breathing more quickly.

Newborn child with father.

Most parents remember the cutting of the umbilical cord after the birth of their baby. Often the father or partner will take that ceremonial role. In hospitals, the cord is very commonly clamped and cut within 30 seconds of the baby’s emergence into the world.

But why the hurry? Your newborn’s wellbeing is improved by a more leisurely approach.

During pregnancy, the baby’s blood circulates through the placenta, where it receives oxygen and nutrients from the mother. At any time, about one third of the baby’s blood is in the placenta. At birth, for as long as the umbilical cord is pulsating (usually 3 to 5 minutes), most of this blood transfers to the baby. When the cord is cut immediately, the baby misses out on this normal biological blood transfer. We now know that if the cord is allowed to stop pulsating before being clamped and cut, the baby establishes normal breathing more quickly, and anemia, even months later, is less likely to occur. There’s no harm in waiting either, except in rare circumstances when the baby must be removed for urgent medical attention. Babies don’t experience more jaundice (as formerly thought) and get the benefit of an immediate oxygen boost from the blood supply in the placenta.

Many caregivers routinely wait longer before cutting, while others continue the outdated practice of cutting the cord immediately. Ask your midwife or physician to delay this procedure for these important reasons.

Watch this simple demonstration of why it’s important to slow down and breathe after birth.

By Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD(DONA), Senior Instructor at Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University, physical therapist, certified childbirth educator, internationally certified birth doula, DONA International birth doula trainer and DONA International founder and mentor.

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