Cut the cord

One of the most interesting things we learned at our recent NCT class was the concept of delayed cord clamping.

Cutting the umbilical cord following birth is one of those things I have never particularly thought about; I know it has to be done, but apart from a brief discussion with Mr Cath about whether he wants to cut it himself (at the moment, he doesn’t, but our enthusiastic midwife might yet persuade him) we have viewed it merely as a necessary but routine part of giving birth. In fact, over the past few months the only new piece of information I had obtained was that the cord is first clamped in two places, and then cut in between them.

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I had certainly never considered the timing aspect of when to clamp and cut the cord. Our NCT teacher explained the benefits delayed cord clamping can bring to the baby – rather than automatically chopping it in the first few seconds. Until it stops pulsating and turns a whitish colour, the umbilical cord will continue to carry extra blood, oxygen and nutrients to the baby for up to ten minutes or longer. This helps to build up the newborn’s iron stores, and is excellent for its health in general.

These were not just the airy fairy musings of our typically pro-natural NCT leader – although after she recommended a glass of wine during labour, I will always be a fan of hers – having looked it up afterwards, there appears to be a grounding in current medical research. The BBC reported just a month and a half ago that the current standard practice (to cut the cord pretty much straight away) is being re-evaluated, and new guidelines are due to be published in 2014. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists “recommends that the umbilical cord should not be clamped earlier than necessary and should always be based on clinical assessment of the situation. Research has shown that delayed cord clamping of more than 30 seconds may benefit the newborn in reducing anaemia.”

Other than when there is a clinical need to have the cord cut straight away, for example if the placenta needs to be delivered immediately or if there are complications such as blood loss, there is no reason why the process cannot be delayed. Umbilical cords come in an alarming array of lengths (we were shown photos at the NCT class to prove it!) but even the shortest cord should allow the baby to be placed on the mother’s tummy while still they are still attached together. The Guardian reports how Liverpool women’s hospital switched their policy to delayed cord clamping last year, and since then midwives have claimed that babies appear pinker and more healthy due to the increased blood they receive.

Delayed cord clamping is now in my birth plan and hopefully our baby will have the chance to benefit from this.

There’s just one thing that the scientific studies have not explored. If we delay cutting the cord at this stage, will it ever be truly severed? We do want our child to leave home at SOME point…!

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