Nearly every pregnancy-related television show and movie has that quintessential scene where the doctor turns to the newborn’s father and asks if he’d like to cut the cord. While it’s always a sweet moment, experts who understand the importance of delayed cord clamping watch these scenes and cringe – because the vast majority of the time, the cord is getting cut way, way too soon.
“At the moment a baby's born, 1/3 of their blood, the blood that's been going through them for all of pregnancy, is still outside their body. And what happened for all of human history is that after the baby is born, the cord would pump. It would pulse. It would push blood into the baby. They'd get 30% more blood. They get 60% more blood cells. They get iron to last them through their first year. They would get white blood cells to fight infection. They would get antibodies. They would get stem cells to help repair their body. But what happened in the 20th century is we got the idea to immediately put a clamp on the cord. To clamp it, cut it, and lock out the oxygen, lock out the iron, lock out all those wonderful things,” explains Dr. Alan Greene, a world-renowned pediatrician and author of Feeding Baby Greene. “If you wait just an extra 90 seconds or so, you get all the good stuff in your baby.”
Ninety seconds – a blink of an eye, a few key photo ops with you and your newborn babe doing skin-to-skin for the first time – seems like a ridiculous amount of time to argue over, but that’s just what’s happening in the majority of maternity wards. As Dr. Greene explains on Kids in the House, “It became medical tradition in the 20th century to clamp immediately and whisk the baby away to do medical care. But the medical literature is very clear: there is no medical benefit from immediate clamping.”
Despite these facts, most physicians continue to prematurely cut their patients’ umbilical cords. “I'm taught as a physician, first do no harm. Sadly, the first thing doctors do is to lock out babies from their birth right, of all these iron and oxygen and white blood cells and everything,” says Dr. Greene. “95% of babies around the world today are having the cord clamped immediately…there'll be a quarter of a million babies born today, most of them will have the cord clamped immediately.”
Put it in your birthplan. Since many doctors and midwives aren’t aware of the benefits of delayed cord clamping, you should discuss it beforehand, as well as writing a request in your birth plan (in case your regular care provider doesn’t end up delivering your baby)
Know that banking doesn’t have to mean premature clamping. You can still do delayed clamping if you want to bank your cord blood – there will be enough leftover for this process, even if you wait 90 seconds.
Don’t rule out delayed cord clamping if you’re having a c-section. C-section mamas can request delayed cord clamping – again, talk to your doctor beforehand to make your desires known.
Understand the logic. Delayed cord clamping isn’t a modern idea. Not only have humans done this throughout history, but all primates – indeed, all mammals – wait until the cord stops pulsing before severing it.