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Delayed Cord Clamping

Delayed Cord Clamping

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Delayed cord clamping is becoming more and more popular and earlier this year the World Heath Organisation recommended that umbilical cords should not be clamped in the first minute following a baby’s birth. So how long should you wait before having the umbilical cord clamped and cut and what are the reasons behind waiting?

What is an umbilical cord and why does it need to be clamped?

The umbilical cord is around 20 inches long and connects the baby to the placenta, from which the foetus will have been gaining oxygen and nutrients inside the womb. It runs from the baby’s belly button to the placenta, which is attached to the lining of the womb.

After the birth, the baby no longer needs to be attached to the placenta so the umbilical cord is clamped to prevent bleeding and then cut, leaving a short stump attached to the baby’s belly button. This will fall off by itself during the first couple of weeks of the baby’s life. Cutting the cord is not at all painful for either the baby or the mother and can be done either by a midwife or by one of the parents.

What is delayed clamping?

Delayed clamping means there is a period of time between the baby being born and the cord being clamped. Early clamping happens within the first 30 seconds of birth while midwives will usually leave between one and three minutes between the birth and clamping, if delayed clamping is requested but it can be more. Many new parents wish to leave the cord intact until it has stopped pulsating and sometimes even until the placenta has been delivered.

Delayed Cord Clamping


Studies have shown a number of benefits to be gained from delayed clamping. Perhaps the most emphatic argument is the levels of iron that the baby receives. Cutting the cord too soon can lower iron stores for the baby’s first six months and lead to anaemia. Leaving the cord also restores blood volume and allows the baby to get used to her new world gradually, being able to take in oxygen through the cord as she begins to breathe normally. Delaying cord clamping can also benefit the mother as it encourages easy delivery of the placenta and reduce the risk of post-partum haemorrhage.


However, delayed cord clamping has been linked to an increased risk of jaundice. It has been suggested that babies whose cords were clamped later are 2% more likely to require treatment for jaundice.


The decision of when the cord is clamped is largely left to the parents and midwife. If there are complications that mean your baby needs immediate treatment then obviously the choice may be taken out of your hands, but for healthy mums and babies it is really a matter of preference. Recent guidelines from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend “deferred clamping and cutting of the cord” for actively managed third stages of labour or “no clamping of the cord until pulsation has stopped” when the third stage is being physiologically managed.






About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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