The cord – what connects the baby to the placenta – isn’t usually given much thought. It’s simply clamped and cut. But like most things relating to pregnancy, we’ve been doing a ton of research to decide if we want to go about things in a slightly different way than the traditional medical model.
So, when the baby comes out, the cord is connected between the baby and the placenta, which is still inside the mom (I’ve been told that the placenta is normally delivered within an hour after birth). Under normal circumstances in a hospital birth, the cord is clamped within a minute of delivery; in some areas, such as Mexico City, it occurs within 17 seconds of birth on average (NPR). Once it’s clamped, it cannot be ‘unclamped.’ The act of clamping cuts off the exchange of blood between the placenta and baby; the cord is then cut.
However, as I understand things, there are several different options for dealing with the cord.
First, you can delay the cord clamping. Why would you want to do this? For one, delaying clamping for at least 2 minutes reduces the baby’s risk of anemia because more iron is transferred from the placenta to the baby (Journal of American Medicine Association; Indiana Academy of Pediatrics). This benefit has been shown to last for as long as the first four months of a baby’s life – with iron concentrations that are up to 45% higher (The New York Times). Some people worry that there are risks relating to delayed cord clamping, such as jaundice, but several studies have failed to find a link. A delay in clamping can also provide the baby with the equivalent of 21% of the infant’s final blood volume – woah! (Science Daily) Some professionals advise waiting to clamp the cord until a certain moment in time – generally 2 – 3 minutes – but others recommend waiting until the cord stops throbbing or pulsating.
Second, you can skip clamping and cutting entirely. This is called a ‘lotus birth.’ In this case, the cord is allowed to naturally break off (it can take around three days); the mother wraps the placenta up in a towel and carries it with the baby until this point. The placenta may be treated with special herbs as well.
And lastly, you can privately bank the baby’s cord blood (edited to add: you can also bank the cord blood for public use). The blood in the cord is a rich source of stem cells, which can be frozen and stored for later use – for example, if the child develops leukemia or a host of other diseases. When you’re pregnant, you’re hit with advertisements for cord blood banking right and left – cord blood banking is a huge business because it is very expensive to do. However, the practice is extremely controversial, as it requires very early clamping of the cord. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages cord blood banking for self-use (there are public banks as well); many other associations have expressed issues with the private cord blood banking industry. The likelihood of a healthy, low-risk child needing their own cord blood is estimated to be 1 in 20,000; furthermore, they may not even be able to use their own cells for a variety of reasons. (Belly Belly)
For me, the choice was clear…
To read about what we decided to do and why, head over to my 35 Week Pregnancy Update on Healthy Tipping Point.
MORE ON BABBLE