The umbilical cord connects your baby to the placenta during pregnancy. The umbilical cord contains two arteries (these carry blood from the baby to the placenta), and one vein (this carries blood to the baby). After birth, the umbilical cord continues to transfer blood and oxygen to your baby until they become stable.
Traditionally, the umbilical cord is cut immediately after birth. However, many people are now choosing to delay the cutting of the cord because research has shown that baby can miss out on an amount of blood if done too soon. This extra blood (which is about 30% more) can give your baby increased iron levels (this helps with their growth and is essential for brain development) and an increase in stem cells (which helps with their growth and their immune system). It can therefore be recommended to wait until the cord stops ‘pulsating’ before cutting the cord. This can take between 1-3 minutes after birth and the midwife can usually feel when this has happened.
This means that after giving birth (either vaginally or through caesarean section) the baby will be dried, wrapped and assessed. If the assessment goes well, they will wait between 1-3 minutes before cutting the cord. Meanwhile, baby can still be placed for skin to skin on mum’s chest.
There are also further benefits of having delayed cord clamping if your baby is premature. This can include having fewer days on ventilation and oxygen (this is required if your baby is having trouble breathing), a lower risk of infection, a lower risk of anaemia and a lower risk of haemorrhage.
There are a few occasions when delayed cord clamping may not be suitable. For example, if mum is bleeding heavily after birth, if there is an issue with the placenta, or if baby needs help with breathing.
For those of you who are currently writing their birth plans, delayed cord clamping can be added.