For decades, the prevailing viewpoint among healthcare practitioners was that it was best to cut the umbilical cord within 15 to 20 seconds after a baby was born. A new opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists changes their previous recommendations regarding delayed umbilical cord clamping after birth.
The umbilical cord functions as a lifeline between mother and baby. The baby receives oxygen rich blood from his or her mother through the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is also the baby’s way of removing carbon dioxide and waste products.
For decades, health practitioners would clamp the umbilical cord, and then cut it, shortly after a baby was born. Standard practice was for the procedure to be done within 15 to 20 seconds after the birth of a baby. There is potential that the reasoning behind this practice had something to do with the perception that the baby no longer needed the umbilical cord attached after birth.
In the early 2000’s, researchers who were studying very pre-term infants felt that leaving the umbilical cord intact for 45 seconds was beneficial to the pre-term infant. This new idea was later considered to be a good idea for full-term babies as well. The idea seems to be that there are health benefits related to allowing the umbilical cord to remain intact for a longer period time than before.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued recommendations regarding delayed cord clamping. They recommended that delayed umbilical cord clamping (not earlier than one minute after birth) is recommended for improved maternal and infant health and nutrition outcomes. The WHO notes that the “one minute” recommendation should be considered as the lower limit on when to clamp an umbilical cord.
In January of 2017, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued recommendations regarding delayed cord clamping. They now recommend delayed umbilical cord clamping for at least 30 to 60 seconds for term and pre-term infants. ACOG states that delayed umbilical cord clamping increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores in the first few months of life.
Some other benefits of delayed cord clamping for pre-term infants may experience include improved transitional circulation, and decreased need for blood transfusion. It should be noted that there is a small increase in jaundice in infants undergoing delayed cord clamping. Fortunately, jaundice is relatively easy to treat.
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