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What is delayed cord clamping?

When a baby is delivered by an obstetrician, the umbilical cord may be clamped and cut within seconds of birth. The phrase "delayed cord clamping" is defined as a 30-60 second wait before clamping the umbilical cord. If the umbilical cord is still pulsating, and the baby is positioned so that blood can flow through the cord, then delayed clamping will allow the newborn to receive some of the stem cell rich blood in the umbilical cord.

Studies have shown that, in parts of the world with poor nutrition or poor infant health care, delayed cord clamping can help protect the baby from anemia (low blood counts) for up to 6 months after birth. Medical studies have shown that delayed clamping is very valuable to protect premature babies from bleeding in the brain, but the value of delayed cord clamping for full-term babies in developed nations is only marginal, despite numerous studies. One study of full-term babies born in Sweden found that the group with delayed cord clamping had slightly higher social skills at age 4 years old, but that study has not been confirmed by other groups so far.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an international guideline to delay cord clamping by one minute. In the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued an opinion stating that clamping should be delayed 30-60 seconds.

References:

van Rheenen, P et al., Tropical Med. and Internal Health 2007; 12(5):603-616 doi:10.1111/j.1365-3156.2007.01835.x
Andersson, O. et al. JAMA Pediatrics 2015; 169(7):631-638 doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0358
When to clamp the umbilical cord for full term babies? Dr. Elisabeth Semple Dec. 2016 Parent's Guide to Cord Blood newsletter
WHO Guideline: Delayed umbilical cord clamping for improved maternal and infant health and nutrition outcomes. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2014.
ACOG Committee Opinion. Timing of Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth. Number 543, December 2012. Reaffirmed 2014.
ACOG Committee Opinion. Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth. Number 684, January 2017.