New Cord Clamping Guidelines Reinforce Benefits Of Delayed Clamping

Delaying cord clamping by a mere minute can have long-lasting effects.

You probably already know that sometime after childbirth the umbilical cord is cut, separating mother and baby, and that the cord is clamped and left to dry and fall from the baby’s belly button.

But you may not know that many doctors now support the practice of “delayed cord clamping,” which leaves the umbilical cord attached for several minutes before clamping and cutting it. This is because a growing body of research has shown that there are benefits to leaving the umbilical cord attached right after childbirth.

Until recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists hadn’t endorsed this practice, citing insufficient evidence. However, in December, ACOG officially changed its position and issued a new set of guidelines, recommending that doctors and midwives hold off on clamping the cords of all healthy newborns for at least 30-60 seconds. This update to their 2012 guideline is based on recent research that not only do preterm infants benefit from delayed cord clamping, but that full-term infants do as well.

For babies who are born on schedule, delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores for several months, which helps prevent iron deficiency during the first year of life, according to ACOG. For preterm babies, delayed umbilical cord clamping improves transitional circulation, facilitates better establishment of red blood cell volume and decreases the need for blood transfusion.

“While there are various recommendations regarding optimal timing for delayed umbilical cord clamping, there has been increased evidence that shows that the practice in and of itself has clear health benefits for both preterm and term infants,” said Maria A. Mascola, MD, the lead author of the Committee Opinion in a press release. “And, in most cases, this does not interfere with early care, including drying and stimulating for the first breath and immediate skin-to-skin contact.”