In spite of a mountain of evidence to support the benefits of leaving the newborn cord intact, immediate cord clamping is still routine care in many hospitals. Updated obstetrical guidelines in the UK are to leave the cord intact for at least 1 minute and up to 5 minutes, and to leave it for longer than 5 minutes if requested by the mother (NICE, 2016). The Cochrane Review, considered the highest standard globally in evidence-based health care information, contains countless articles on the benefits of delayed cord clamping.
The placental blood normally belongs to the infant, and his/her failure to get this blood is equivalent to submitting the newborn to a severe hemorrhage at birth. (DeMarsh, 1941)
Yes, we’ve known since 1941! Changing practise takes a long time indeed.
Immediate umbilical cord clamping after delivery is routine… despite little evidence to support this practice. Numerous trials in both term and preterm neonates have demonstrated the safety and benefit of delayed cord clamping. The failure to more broadly implement delayed cord clamping in neonates ignores published benefits of increased placental blood transfusion at birth and may represent an unnecessary harm for vulnerable neonates. (McAdams, 2014)
Basic newborn & cord physiology
- The placenta is nature’s neonatal life-support system
- Oxygenation continues until newborn lungs transition (30 to 90 seconds in a full-term infant)
- Placental transfusion (blood moving from placenta to baby’s body) rate: 50% in 1 minute; nearly 100% over the next 2 to 5 minutes
- “Delayed” in research ranges from 30sec – 3min, depending on the researcher and study
- The newborn heart can beat and the brain can tolerate of lack of oxygen for up to 20 minutes (Resuscitation Council (UK), 2001; Frye, 2004; WHO, 1999) as long as the cord is intact.
- Newborns cope well with lack of oxygen but struggle with low blood volume
At time of birth:
- Blood volume of newborn at birth: 78ml/kg
- Volume after 3min placental transfusion: 126ml/kg
- g., 3.6kg (8lb) baby has 280ml – 450ml blood volume – a 40% difference!
- Adults may go into shock and receive blood transfusions at 15 to 30% blood-loss.
Intact cord – birth to 15minutes (Elphanie, 2011)
Benefits of DCC
- 40% more blood volume
- 45-50% increased levels of red blood cell counts and blood iron levels
- Benefits / effects last well past the newborn period
- Protection from anaemia and iron deficiency for at least 6 months (Chaparro et al., 2006)
- Significantly lower rates and less severity of common, major newborn health issues
- More stable vital signs and thrive better
- Less likely to require blood transfusion, ventilation and oxygen therapy
- Lower rates of anaemia at 6 months
Overall, the available evidence appears to suggest that DCC is likely to result in better neonatal outcomes in both term and preterm infants. (Garafalo, 2012)
Issues related to immediate cord clamping:
- Stem-cell banking: Alberta Health Services (2007) lists the maximum blood draw for an 8lb baby as 2.5-3.5ml in 24 hours, as more may lead to medical complications. Green (2008) cites the same daily limit and 23-30ml total in 1 month.
- The minimum amount of blood acceptable for collection is 45ml, maximum is 215ml; 100ml is optimal (Reed, 2011; CRYO-CELL International Inc., 2011).
- Jaundice: Leaving the umbilical cord intact does not lead to pathological jaundice. The naturally occurring physiological newborn jaundice has no clinical significance.
- Cord gases don’t change significantly even after 2 minutes of delayed clamping (De Paco et al., 2011).
- Dysfunctional cord: If a baby is born flat with a limp, non-pulsing cord then the cord is no longer working. In this case immediate clamping is warranted.
Does anything replace DCC?
- Neither “milking”/“stripping” cord, nor gravity accomplish or speed-up full placental transfusion
Objections by your medical care provider?
Dr. Mark Sloan wrote an excellent article, Common Objections to Delayed Cord Clamping; What’s the Evidence Say? that addresses common misinformation and discusses the benefits of delayed cord clamping.
Even the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping for all healthy infants for at least 30-60 seconds after birth, “given the numerous benefits to most newborns” (ACOG, 2017). It’s not enough but is a big step forward for ACOG, notoriously interventionist.
ACOG American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2017). Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth. Obstet Gynecol 2017;129:e5–10. http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Delayed-Umbilical-Cord-Clamping-After-Birth
Alberta Health Services. (2007). Maximum blood draw protocol for pediatric patients.
Asfour, V., & Bewley, S. (2011). Cord clamping practice could affect the ratio of placental weight to birthweight and perinatal outcomes. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology., 118 (12), 1539-40.
Buckley, D. S. (2005). Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. Brisbane: One Moon.
Chaparro, C. M., Neufeld, L. M., Alavez, G. T., Cedillo, R., & Dewey, K. G. (2006). Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping on iron status in Mexican infants: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 367 (9527), 1997-2004.
Crews, C. (2007). Clamping of the umbilical cord – immediate or delayed. Is this really an issue? Retrieved from Midwifery Services of South Texas: http://www.midwiferyservices.org/umbilical_cord_clamping.htm
CRYO-CELL International Inc. (2011). Cord blood collection instructions. Florida.
De Paco, C., Florido, J., Garrido, M., Prados, S., Navarrete, L. (2011). Umbilical cord blood acid-base and gas analysis after early versus delayed cord clamping in neonates at term. Arch Gynecol Obstet , 283 (5), 1011-4.
De Marsh, Q. B., et al. (1941).”The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its Placental Blood.” Journal of the American Medical Association (J.A.M.A.),
Elphanie. (2011, Oct). Magical Umbilical Cords. Retrieved from Nurturing Hearts Birth Services: http://www.nurturingheartsbirthservices.com/blog/?p=1542
Fogelson, D. N. (2011). Delayed cord clamping grandrRounds. USC School of Medicine, A.P. Dept. Obstetrics and Gynecology. South Carolina: Palmetto Health Grand Rounds.
Frye, A. (2004). Holistic midwifery, vol 2, Care during labour and birth. Portland: Labrys.
Greene, A. (2008). How much blood is too much guideline. Retrieved from Dr Greene: http://www.drgreene.com/article/how-much-blood-too-much-guideline
McAdams, R.M. (2014). Obstet Gynecol. 123(3):549-52. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000122.
Mercer, J. S., Vohr, B. R., McGrath, M. M., Padbury, J. F., Wallach, M., & Oh, W. (2006). Delayed cord clamping in very preterm infants reduces the incidence of intraventricular hemmorhage and late onset sepsis; a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics, 117 (4), 1235-1242.
NICE National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK). (2016). Clinical guideline [CG190] Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Pub Dec 2014, revised/updated Nov 2016. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190/
Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies
Reed, R. (2011). Cord blood collection: confessions of a vampire-midwife. Retrieved from Midwife Thinking: http://midwifethinking.com/2011/02/10/cord-blood-collection-confessions-of-a-vampire-midwife/
Resuscitation Council (UK). (2001). Resuscitation at birth, the newborn life support provider course manual (2nd ed.). London, UK: Resuscitation Council (UK).
Richmond, S., & Wyllie, J. (2010). European resuscitation council guidelines for resuscitation 2010. Section 7. Resuscitation of babies at birth. J. Resuscitation , 1389-1399.
Strange, K. (2009). NRP for midwives certification class. Seattle, WA.
Tolosa, J. N., Park, D.-H., Eve, D. J., Klasko, S. K., Borlongan, C. V., & Sanberg, P. R. (2010). Mankind’s first natural stem cell transplant. J. Cell. Mol. Med. , 14 (3), 488-95.
Usher, R., Shephard, M., & Lind, J. (1963). The Blood Volume of the Newborn Infant and Placental Transfusion. Acta Paediatrica – Nurturing the Child , 52 (5), 497-512.
WHO. (1999). Basic newborn resuscitation practical guide – revision. Geneva: World Health Organization Safe Motherhood Unit.
Yao, A., & Lind, J. (1969). Effect of gravity on placental transfusion. The Lancet.