What's The Deal With Delayed Cord Clamping?

Recently a new official statement was issued by the AAP that "Umbilical cord clamping should be delayed in term and preterm infants due to several health benefits, according the the AAP-endorsed guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)." This new recommendation replaces the ACOG's prior committee opinion published in December 2012. 

What is delayed cord clamping?

In short, delayed cord clamping is the practice of clamping (and subsequently cutting) the umbilical cord after it has ceased to pulse or after the placenta has been delivered after childbirth.

What are the benefits of this process? According to the new committee's report:

  • In term infants, delayed umbilical cord clamping increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores in the first several months of life, which may have a favorable effect on developmental outcomes." 
  • Delayed umbilical cord clamping is associated with significant neonatal benefits in preterm infants, including improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of adverse health issues such as intraventricular hemorrhage.
  • Given the benefits to most newborns and concordant with other professional organizations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping in vigorous term and preterm infants for at least 30–60 seconds after birth.

In terms of potential or previously cited risks, the committee adds this:

  • There is a small increase in the incidence of jaundice that requires phototherapy in term infants undergoing delayed umbilical cord clamping. Consequently, obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers adopting delayed umbilical cord clamping in term infants should ensure that mechanisms are in place to monitor and treat neonatal jaundice.
  • Delayed umbilical cord clamping does not increase the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

You can find the ACOG's complete report here and the AAP's condensed version here

What's this mean to you?

As you prepare for your baby's arrival, this new recommendation is relevant as it will likely impact the conversation you have with your midwife or other medical practitioner. Note that per the ACOG, the ability to provide delayed umbilical cord clamping may vary among institutions and settings, and the decisions in those circumstances are best made by the team caring for the mother and infant. Because of the possibility for variations, if delayed cord clamping is something that is important to you, it's recommended that you speak with your care provider to determine which options are available to you. As always, we offer birth plan consultations both virtually and in person, and would love to help you sort through your birth preferences.

xo, Chelsea