It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, so this one is for an expectant mother I met at the airport recently, good luck with your delivery if you are reading! I researched this for a guest blog over at Atlantamomofthree…here it is for my readers.
My birth story is nothing like I imagined it would be. Before I was even pregnant, I knew a C-section was the way I wanted to deliver. My mum and my closest friend had the best birth stories of any I had heard…they both delivered by sections…so I wanted one too!
Thankfully, I fell into the very spiritual hands of a wonderful yoga teacher. As a group of expectant yogis, we explored every aspect of giving birth from such a range of perspectives, that any element of fear was dispelled. I entered labour relaxed and calm and excited to try my hand at an all natural delivery. What a turn around from where I started my journey.
I was rather clueless about everything baby related when I became pregnant, I kind of learnt on the job, a journey which led me deep into the heart of natural parenting.
I left my birth plan until really late, packed my hospital bag at the last minute, and made some fairly big decisions literally the week before his arrival. One of those decisions was about delayed cord clamping. All being well with the delivery, I requested that the umbilical cord remain attached to the placenta until it stopped pulsing at which point it should be clamped and cut.
It was a passing comment of a fellow yogi in my last yoga class that piqued my curiosity in the subject…I am so thankful that I launched into some research at the time. Now I would like to share some of the facts and the pros and cons of delayed cord clamping.
The average umbilical cord is 50cm or 20 inches long!
Inside the cord is one main vein transporting oxygen food and antibodies to baby. Then there are two arteries returning waste products and deoxygenated blood back to mum. These vessels are protected by a sticky substance called Wharton’s Jelly…it’s role becomes clear later on.
Out into the world…
Even after baby is born, the cord continues to perform its essential functions, passing across oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. Allowing the blood to continue to flow after delivery results in a healthy blood volume and a full count of red blood cells, stem cells and immune cells for baby.
When you look at the cord from this perspective, it is easy to see immediate clamping for the surgical intervention that it is…an irrevocable interruption to the natural process of birth which can impact baby for the rest of their life.
So why is immediate clamping the norm…
Standard practice has a lot to answer for…the medical world is slow to move away from standard practice. If you are hoping to delay the clamping of your cord, you need to shout about it, discuss it as part of your birth plan…make sure your wish is heard and understood.
What exactly is delayed cord clamping…
It simply means waiting for the placenta to finish its transfusion through the cord to the baby. Approximately 3 minutes is the time it takes to give baby the full circulating blood volume and for the cord to stop pulsing, but it can take anywhere up to ten minutes.
Amazing picture courtesy of nurturingheartsbirthservices.
As you can see in the series of photographs above, the cord starts as a thick purple pulsing rope of a cord. As it is exposed to the cooler temperature of the outside world, the Wharton’s jelly starts to change structure and it starts to collapse down on the blood supply running through it. Over the course of 3-10 minutes the blood supply is completely and naturally cut off…cord clamping isn’t really necessary at all!
As the cord stops pulsing, it turns limp and white, indicating that the transfusion of blood is complete. Eventually the jelly hardens and the umbilical cord detaches.
So that’s the science, hopefully it all makes sense, but what are some of the pros and cons of delaying cord clamping?
A full blood volume for the baby reduces the risk of anaemia. About 1/3 of baby’s blood is in the placenta, that is a lot of volume to cut off before it has time to find its way to baby.
The extra blood provides essential iron stores for the first six months of life…this is especially important for breast feeding mums as iron is one of the few things our milk does not provide enough of. That iron is essential for brain development and function.
It encourages mother and baby to stay close. Because the cord stays attached to the placenta while the placenta is still attached to mum, baby can only be taken so far. Skin to skin direct contact is a great way to colonize baby’s skin with mums friendly bacteria, providing protection from infection. It is also a great way to stimulate breastfeeding hormones.
One reason for immediate clamping was it was thought to reduce the chances of post-partum haemorrhaging. Studies have shown this to not be true.
More blood means a higher chance of jaundice in baby as blood carries bilirubin, the source and cause of neonatal jaundice. Jaundice can be helped in a non invasive way by breastfeeding frequently and getting baby plenty of exposure to sunlight, much easier to remedy than anaemia and iron deficiency which can also occur with immediate clamping.
My delivery was easy (those listening to my screaming would disagree) and our midwife was totally supportive. It was a long few minutes before my husband could step up to the cord with the scissors to do what he had been waiting to do! Our little guy was a full term healthy baby and it was no problem to keep him attached while my placenta delivered naturally.
Spare a thought though, for those babies in distress, born pre-term, or born via c-section. These are the ones who could benefit so much from the extra oxygen and blood and nutrients that delaying clamping can provide. Yet these are the ones who are clamped and cut and whisked away for special care so quickly. Once the wider medical world starts to see the benefits of delaying clamping, hopefully it could be incorporated into the care of the sickest and smallest babies, to give them the best start in life possible.
- Skin To Skin. More Than Just Cute Cuddles… (wildandwisdom.com)
- Express Delivery. (wildandwisdom.com)
- Virgin gut. (wildandwisdom.com)