You’ve just given birth and you’re holding your baby for the first time. Her eyes are bright. Cheeks rosy. And she has kissable fingers and toes. But what you can’t see — and may not know — is that she’s born only having two-thirds of her body’s blood.
According to Dr. Alan Greene, “During the third stage of labor, which lasts from the delivery of the baby to the delivery of the placenta, the cord actively pumps iron-rich, oxygen-rich, stem-cell-rich blood into the baby. Unless the cord is clamped too quickly.”
Immediate cord clamping was a procedure popularized in the early 1900s and it’s thought to reduce maternal hemorrhaging. But now it appears that doing so may have health consequences for your baby. Of biggest concern, is an increased risk of developing iron deficiency anemia — which is up to 10-times greater and linked to damage in the developing brain.
Like you, Dr. Greene is on a mission to give babies the healthiest start in the world. His recommendation? Simply wait 90 seconds until the cord stops pumping blood into the baby, unless a medical reason dictates otherwise (e.g., preterm birth, cesarean delivery, asphyxiation, resuscitation, etc.). This is consistent with the World Health Organization’s position on cord clamping one to three minutes after birth so long as the newborn doesn’t require immediate medical attention.
The New York Times also reports findings from a paper published by The Cochrane Database of Systematic Review, stating:
“Newborns with later clamping had higher hemoglobin levels 24 to 48 hours postpartum and were less likely to be iron-deficient three to six months after birth, compared with term babies who had early cord clamping…. Delayed clamping did not increase the risk of severe postpartum hemorrhage, blood loss or reduced hemoglobin levels in mother.”
The Times goes on to say, though, that the Cochrane analysis found a two percent increase in jaundice among babies who got delayed cord clamping, compared with those who did not. Despite this risk, research suggests that delayed clamping may safely reduce the risk of iron deficiency, inadequate oxygen to the brain, and cerebral palsy in babies, while enriching blood with immunoglobulins and stem cells. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, who neither supports nor refutes the benefits, reminds that they must be weighed against the possible need for jaundice therapy among other things.
In the end, speak to your obstetrician about the pros and cons of delayed cord clamping, and consider incorporating Dr. Greene’s TICC TOCC (Transitioning Immediate Cord Clamping to Optimal Cord Clamping) method into your birth plan if it meets yours and your doctor’s ideal timing for clamping.