Human beings have been fascinated by the umbilical cord throughout our history and this fascination continues today. It has almost become a rite of passage for the father of the baby to cut the cord (a completely ridiculous pressure to be putting on to new parents, by the way). Which is very interesting, since men weren’t even allowed in the birth room until the last few decades.
And this isn’t the only trend to have changed since the mid-20th century. The way in which cords are clamped has changed too. As recent as the 1980’s, cords would be clamped and cut as soon as the baby was born (indeed if the cord was accessible when baby’s head was born, then it was normal practice to clamp and cut it at that point). In recent years, scientific studies have helped to enlighten us and we have come to realise why this practice is bizarre and unnecessary but also can be detrimental to your baby’s health, too.
A study carried out by Andersson et al in 2015, showed that the effects of the timing of clamping the cord are still present at 4 years of age. That’s incredible. They found that with immediate clamping of the cord, it lowered the children’s ability to perform fine motor and social skills at 4 years of age (and this was especially prominent in boys). This was compared with children that had the cord clamped at least 3 minutes after the birth.
So, a mere 180 seconds can make all the difference.
In another study Andersson et al, also found differences in iron stores at 4 months of age. They found that babies that had their cord clamped after 3 minutes, had a higher stores of iron, than those that had their cord clamped immediately. I think it’s kind of funny that we needed these studies in order to prove something that is just common sense.
Human beings are highly evolved. Our bodies have been sculpted and engineered by nature for millennia. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to let nature do its thing. When you wait and leave the cord alone, the blood that is in it, slowly makes its way into your baby. This can take anything from a few minutes to an hour. During that time, the placenta would normally come out too.
Now, I do have to admit that there does reach a point where we may have to leave nature behind for a moment- and that is when it comes to separating the cord from the placenta. If you look to the animal kingdom- they generally bite the cord to sever it. At this point in time, I’m all for a pair of scissors. But in all seriousness, it makes perfect sense to leave that cord to pulsate and to let all of the blood make its way to your baby, where it belongs.
If you pregnant and reading this- what’s in your birth plan? Have you thought about the cord? If not- then it’s we’ll worth including it as part of the plan. Most midwives will leave the cord these days but this isn’t always the case at a c-section or at an instrumental birth, so make sure you include that as part of your plan too.
Want to read more? Check out the studies that I mentioned above and these other helped resources:
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