Do We Cut The Umbilical Cord Too Early? New Study Says ‘Yes’

umbilical cord clamp, clamping the umbilical cord, cutting the umbilical cord, delaying clamping

Delaying clamping the umbilical cord at birth may have far reaching benefits for your baby according to researchers at the University of South Florida’s Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair — and should be delayed for at least a few minutes longer after birth. This new recommendation published in the most recent Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (14:3) notes that delaying clamping the umbilical cord allows more umbilical cord blood and crucial stem cells to transfer from mama to baby.

umbilical cord clamp, clamping the umbilical cord, cutting the umbilical cord, delaying clamping

With this transfer of blood University of South Florida notes that babies gain many benefits. Benefits include:

  • Babies receive beneficial stem cells have many therapeutic properties vs. when you clamp the cord and shut off that flow of stem cells.
  • Researchers note that “In pre-term infants, delaying clamping the cord for at least 30 seconds reduced incidences of intraventricular hemorrhage, late on-set sepsis, anemia, and decreased the need for blood transfusions.
  • Receiving cord blood may also reduce a baby’s risk of other illnesses, including respiratory distress, chronic lung disease and eye disease.
  • Delayed cord clamping also ensures that a baby receives important clotting factors.

This USF research may be new, but the idea of waiting to clamp the umbilical cord is anything but. Routine cord clamping has only been around since the 1930s and even since then many health care providers, midwives in particular, but many MDs as well, have disagreed with this practice. A 2003 study discusses waiting to clamp the cord specifically to protect the brains of babies who suffer birth trauma or asphyxiation at birth. Sarah Buckley’s “A Natural Approach to the Third Stage of Labour,” Midwifery Today Issue 59 lists multiple studies reaching as far back as the 1960s which point to delayed cord cutting as beneficial.

So why clamp early?

Science Daily notes, “In recent Western medical practice, early clamping — from 30 seconds to one minute after birth — remains the most common practice among obstetricians and midwives, perhaps because the benefits of delaying clamping have not been clear.” However, what’s not quite clear is WHY the current research is considered unclear.  Multiple studies and books over dozens of years have mentioned much of what is mentioned in this new USF research. Most advocates of waiting to clamp the cord suggest waiting for more than a minute, or until the cord completely stops pulsating to cut the cord thus allowing your baby the full benefits of umbilical blood.

In the end, at least right now, why hospitals are still clamping early is a problem left to parents. As parents waiting to cut the cord is something you can include in your birth plan and an issue you should discuss with your midwife or doctor.

*Sources – Science Daily & msnbc

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8 Responses to “Do We Cut The Umbilical Cord Too Early? New Study Says ‘Yes’”

  1. onceoff says:

    The argument for clamping straight away, is that the more cord blood going in to the baby, the more blood products the babies liver has to process, which can result in jaundice, with the distressing (for the baby) result of having to be placed under UV lights to cure the jaundice. Maybe you shouldn’t publish such one sided articles to vulnerable parents.

  2. Jennifer Chait says:

    Onceoff – places that are unreliable like Wikipedia spread stories of jaundice ridden infants due to cord clamping but actual scientific data says otherwise. If you look through studies on early vs. delayed cord clamping – real studies not wiki or other un-cited sources – you’ll see that the risk of jaundice with late clamping is minimal, but the risk of anemia in early cord clamping is significant.

    The idea behind jaundice in infants due to late cord clamping came from an unpublished study that showed non-significant incidents of jaundice. BUT the medical community jumped on it anyhow. Real published studies show that there is no significant difference in mean serum bilirubin levels nor an increased risk of neonatal jaundice within the first 24 hours of life associated with late clamping. In the non-published study related to jaundice, more babies needed phototherapy for jaundice but there was only a difference of 2%.

    Clamping early is not a good example of using evidence-based practice (quality scientific information for making a judgment). It’s kind of like when scientists first though scurvy was an airborne virus – of course they later found this to be completely untrue but for years that’s what doctors told people. Many medical practices in hospitals today are not based on evidence but popular habit, cord clamping early is an excellent example of a popular habit not based in science and should not be a norm in all births.

  3. Ozyman says:

    Jennifer – It looks to me like the information that onceoff is referring to was indeed published in the The Cochrane Library:

    I’m not saying there is not a better argument for delayed clamping, but like most decisions in medicine it seems there are tradeoffs involved.

  4. Jennifer Chait says:

    The information you point out or that Onceoff did, was a review of previous findings not a peer reviewed published study and results were not significant. Many of the reviews that mention jaundice refer to (Mc Donald 1996, PhD thesis) noting that more babies in the late cord clamping and cutting group require phototherapy for jaundice than in the early cord clamping and cutting group (five trials, 1762 infants). But as the WHO notes, these results were influenced by a large unpublished trial in which late cord clamping and cutting was done when cord pulsation had ceased or at 5 minutes if cord pulsation had not ceased.

    My issue with cord clamping is that it’s done too routinely in order to “Avoid Jaundice” when the evidence is not clear at all about this issue. To do anything medically regularly that’s not been studied in a larger manner, peer reviewed and published seems nuts to me. Especially when on the flip side a lack of cord blood to babies has been studied and published and does show negative results due to early cord clamping.

    I’m not for delayed clamping for all babies. I believe that clamping, like other birth aspects should fit the situation. For example, as Mothering put it, “hyperbilirubinemia may be prevented in premature and “medicated” infants by early clamping” BUT not all babies are medicated or premature. To blindly apply one medical procedure to an entire population based on non-studies and general hypothesis is not only poor science but poor birth management. Birth needs to fit the mama and baby rather than having the mama and baby fit the hospital’s procedures.

    Here’s a good piece on situational clamping –

  5. Dr.Rohit V.Bhatt says:

    I agree with the opinion that late clamping of the umbilical cord is useful to the newborn.
    In poor and developing countries, most pregnant women are anemic and so the foetus receives less iron from the mother if umbilical cord is clamped soon. It is better to allow more cord blood to go to the newborn -otherwise it goes waste anyway.
    The literature of 50-60 years ago clearly pointed to the advantages of late clamping.The advantage of stem cells was not known then. But now we know.

  6. terra1 says:

    In regards to physiological jaundice of the newborn, the best way to prevent it is with early breast feeding. The colostrum present in mothers breast at the time of birth acts as a laxative. Bilirubin is excreted in the feces. Get the baby breast feeding well and the jaundice rate will be reduced along with the benefit of delayed cord clamping.

  7. CarlaSue88 says:

    So what about people who want to bank their baby’s cord blood just in case? I know that it can be terribly helpful if the child has certain diseases later in life.

  8. parlorgirl says:

    As a mother of two that I absolutely delayed the cord cutting, I thought I would add that both my babies did have jaundice. Which is a completely normal thing for a baby! I always go back to nature and cave men with babies. No one nawed through that cord within 30 seconds after the birth EVER!!! When a baby has jaundice two things happen, they sleep and breastfeed like crazy. As a result, the mother gets much needed rest, the breastmilk supply gets full and it helps with any early mastitis problems. Natural, Nature, the way life works on its own. Jaundice is probably scary to those who do not breastfeed, or take there baby to a hospital because the doctors scare them about there bilirubin levels. I didn’t even put the second one in filtered sunlight but a couple times after reading quite a few good arguments and studies that show it does not speed up recovery of juandice. My second recovered in no time just like my first. I had put the first in numerous times a day. The blood in the cord is the babies blood! Especially in premies….they really need it. They are struggling so much all ready. I think all women should REALLY research the history of birth practices in the world. Or at the very least this country. Then that I promise will lead to wanting to know how the rest of the world does it! I didn’t know anything till I reached far beyond the depths of the current views of birthing in this world..Then you can really start reading between the lines . I was shocked at how things can be the way they are to day with all the knowledge we have. Not sure why I was shocked though, it isn’t just birthing that is skewed by the “educated” that make you feel like they know everything and you know nothing….That is why you have to do it yourself…Educate! I mean really research!! Find out where the info is coming from..who wrote it. Research them and the companies that they have worked for in the last decade!! Like really figure out that your info is not completely biased one way or the other. Truly research!! There is nothing more imortant than out children. People come at me like I am a horrible parent for many of the things the cord, the no vaccines.. i just ask them how many hours of research did they do before they made desicions about there childrens lives. ” Well I clicked on the FDA website and they said…..” Seriously!!! Between my husband and I there has been months and months and hours upon hours. That much is needed and it is that important!! I don’t ask anyone to just believe me, but that they truly find out for themselves.

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