Delayed cord clamping during C-section births are now recommended, but many expectant mothers have questions about how it works, the benefits and what risks may be involved. One common misconception is that delayed cord clamping is only relevant for vaginal births, but this is untrue. The umbilical cord that runs between your baby and your placenta must be clamped and then cut to complete the birthing process, and timing for this process is important whether you deliver vaginally or you have a C-section.The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends delayed cord clamping in full term and preterm infants for at least 30–60 seconds after birth.Click To Tweet
Introduction to Delayed Cord Clamping
To understand how cord clamping works and why the timing of this action is so important, consider some facts about how a newborn baby transitions from surviving in the womb to thriving in the outside world:
- The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord. A steady flow of blood circulates between the placenta and the baby, delivering nutrients and oxygen to the baby while removing waste from the baby’s system.
- A large percentage of a growing baby’s blood is located in the placenta and umbilical cord while in the womb. This isn’t extra or unneeded blood. This is blood that belongs to the baby and is in the process of circulating through the placenta and back to the baby’s body.
- Newborn babies are connected to the umbilical cord when they are removed from the womb. If left connected, a final transfusion of blood will flow from the placenta to the baby’s body for up to five or 10 minutes after birth. This is often referred to as the placental transfusion. The baby receives red blood cells, immunity cells, stem cells, and iron from this final transfusion.
- In order to complete the birthing process and separate the newborn from the mother, doctors must clamp and then cut the umbilical cord. Clamping stops the transfusion of blood from the placenta to the baby.
It was once common for doctors to immediately clamp and cut the umbilical cord, but research has proven that there are some clear benefits to delaying this process. Delayed cord clamping is the process of leaving the cord attached until it stops pulsating. This is the signal that the placental transfusion is complete, and the mother often delivers the placenta by the time that the process is finished.
Newborns receive many benefits when cord clamping is delayed by at least three minutes. In some cases, the doctor will simply wait for the cord to stop pulsating, which may take up to 10 minutes.
Due to the benefits amazing benefit of a delay of even 30 seconds, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has updated their recommendations to delay umbilical cord clamping in full term and preterm infants for at least 30–60 seconds after birth to optimal health for both mom and baby! The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Nurse–Midwives also endorse this recommendation.
Delayed Cord Clamping During a C-Section Birth
Many medical professionals hesitate or outright refuse to perform delayed cord clamping during a C-section because of the increased risk of infection. Doctors prefer to deliver the baby and seal the incision as quickly as possible because the risk of infection gets higher the longer the stomach is open. This doesn’t meant that you can’t find a doctor willing to delay clamping, so it’s worth understanding how the process works.
While the process of delivering a baby through C-section is different than the vaginal delivery process, the act of cutting the cord isn’t much different. Your delivery doctor will pull your baby’s head through an incision on your stomach first, giving the baby time to breathe before easing the shoulders and the rest of your baby’s body through the incision. The umbilical cord remains intact through this process, and blood continues to flow between the placenta and your baby.
This is where delayed clamping comes into play. Rather than clamping the cord and severing the connection to the placenta right away, the doctor will remove the placenta while it is still connected to the umbilical cord. The doctor will wait for the cord to stop pulsating or will wait a designated period of time before clamping and cutting the cord.
This process is considered safe for most women, but your doctor may not take the time to delay clamping if you are having a C-section due to signs of distress in your baby or complications within your own body. If you have a planned C-section and your baby isn’t in distress, then the doctor will assess the health of you and your baby upon delivery and will then make a final determination on the safety of delayed cord clamping.
Delayed Cord Clamping During C-Section vs. Lotus Birth
If you have heard of a lotus birth, please note that this isn’t the same thing as delayed cord clamping. Basic delayed clamping is usually completed within 10 minutes of your baby’s delivery. A lotus birth refers to the less common practice of keeping the baby connected to the placenta until the umbilical cord naturally falls off on its own. This typically happens within two weeks of the baby’s birth.
Is Delayed Cord Clamping During C-Section Best for Your Baby?
Research is showing that delayed cord clamping benefits ALL babies, but especially those born premature. The only problem with delayed clamping during a C-section is the slight risk of infection and added complication for your doctor. This moves the question from what is best for your baby to what your doctor is willing to do during your delivery.
If you’re interested in delayed cord clamping, talk to your doctor about your options as soon as you know that you will have a C-section. Explain that you know the current recommendations and want to try for the procedure if it is possible. This allows you to hear your doctor’s stance on this procedure before you get your hopes up. If your doctor is open to including delayed clamping in your birth plan, you can still expect him or her to make the final decision when your baby is actually removed from the womb. They must assess your condition as well as the baby’s health before determining that it’s safe to delay the process.
If your doctor isn’t willing to even consider delayed cord clamping for your C-section, you will have to decide if you want to talk to other doctors who may have a more open mind. Keep in mind that this is still a rather new concept, and more doctors are likely to change their stance on the practice as they research it more and know the current recommendations.
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