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Cord Clamping: Making the Decision

Making the decision about cord clamping

Recently, some parents in our classes have come with a dilemma. They’ve heard about the benefits of delayed cord clamping for their babies, especially lower rates of anemia, but they’ve also heard that we now have the option of public cord blood banking, which shares stem cells from the umbilical cord to treat a variety of diseases. Like being a blood or marrow donor, donating cord blood can be an extremely satisfying, and simple, way to be a hero.

A little background on cords and their care ~

For many years, the umbilicus was clamped and cut at the moment of the baby’s birth. The WHO and many other organizations now question this practice if it’s not medically needful, as the cord if left alone will circulate the baby’s blood back into baby until the placenta’s ready to be born.

It makes sense that delaying clamping lowers anemia rates. During pregnancy, the placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the baby. To get this nourishment, babies have to send their blood outside their bodies through the cord to the placenta.

When babies are born into the world their circulatory systems switch to getting air and food from their lungs and stomach – but of course it takes a while to make the switch from one system to the other! Delaying clamping is choosing not to interrupt the transfer of that circulatory system. More blood, stem cells, nutrients and oxygen come back into the newborn.

However, this same cord blood is a precious donation, worth its weight in gold. Unlike regular blood, cord blood is rich with stem cells, and can be used to treat over 80 diseases in children, including leukemia, lymphoma, and anemia.

So there is the dilemma. Both are great - is it possible to have your stem cells and donate them too? How much of baby’s blood can be donated without baby noticing?

Making Your Decision

This is a great example of an early parenting decision that will be unique for each family!

Here are some facts to help in your consideration:

  • ¼ of the umbilical blood has to be left in the cord for donation.

  • At three minutes, at least ½ of baby’s blood has returned to baby.

  • A review of all the studies suggests that a 1-to-3 minute wait is fine to lower anemia rates, which is why the W.H.O recommends that length for delay.

  • No studies have yet shown that going beyond three minutes is helpful. So, for parents who wish to give their baby stem cells but donate them too, a three-minute delay could be an answer to the riddle.

Some parents may be cautious about studies that haven’t yet been done. Some parents may be reassured to remember that most of today’s parents had their own cords cut immediately upon birth. Whatever your concerns or wishes, this is an excellent subject to talk about with your care provider!

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