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Pregnant woman learning about delayed cord clamping

Understanding Delayed Cord Clamping

familiarize yourself with this new standard for delivery

If you’re a first-time mom, or your last baby was born before 2017, you might not know about delayed cord clamping (DCC).

And even if you have given birth since then, you still might not be familiar with it. (After all, there’s a lot of details we typically leave to the professionals, especially when there’s a newborn to hold.)

The American Pregnancy Association defines delayed cord clamping as “the prolongation of the time between the delivery of a newborn and the clamping of the umbilical cord. Delayed umbilical cord clamping is usually performed 25 seconds to 5 minutes after giving birth.”

We connected with Dr. Sheri Puffer—an OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital—to find out more.

When I gave birth nearly 7 years ago, I didn’t hear about DCC. Is this something that’s a recent development for delivery? Is it possible that I had DCC with my son and didn’t even know it? Most likely you did not have DCC with your son. We used to cut and clamp the cord right after delivery as standard practice. In 2017, ACOG [the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] came out with a practice bulletin discussing the benefits based on studies and made official recommendations for a 30–60 second DCC in both term and preterm infants. It has been shown that DCC did not increase a woman’s risk of postpartum hemorrhage or amount of blood loss at delivery.

Can you talk a little bit about the benefits and risks? In term infants, the benefits are increased hemoglobin levels and iron stores in the first few months of life that have favorable effects on development. In preterm infants, the benefits are even more profound, including improved red blood cell volume, circulation, decreased need for blood transfusion and decreasing in necrotizing enterocolitis [an intestinal disease] and intraventricular hemorrhage.

A small risk in term infants is an increased risk of jaundice requiring phototherapy, which is easily recognized and treatable without any side effects.

Is there any reason not to do DCC? Typically, DCC is now within the standard of care. You can always discuss with your doctor to confirm whether or not they are doing this so there are no surprises at delivery.

The only time I personally do not do DCC is when there is fetal distress and resuscitative measures are needed, or if the mother was hemodynamically unstable [abnormal or unstable blood pressure] or had abnormal placentation [a condition that can make it difficult to remove the placenta from the uterus after birth] that required immediate attention.

Image courtesy of iStock.