Start writing
Share this Story

Why it matters when you cut the umbilical cord after delivery

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

New recommendations suggest waiting 30 to 60 seconds after birth before cutting the umbilical cord

Cutting the umbilical cord after delivery is both a literal and symbolic gesture, representing a child’s ability to breathe and exist on their own without being tethered to their mother. While the cut typically happens almost immediately after birth, U.S. obstetricians are now recommending to wait at least 30 to 60 seconds.

This makes sense when you think about it. During the gestation process, the fetus breathes via the placenta, taking in oxygen-rich fluid. Upon delivery, the baby’s lungs make the switch from processing liquid to inhaling air. Giving the child an extra minute to make the adjustment ensures that she doesn’t miss any extra oxygen to supplement early breaths.

More: Why I wouldn't let my husband cut my baby's cord... at first

Prior to the 1960s, it was common for doctors to wait at least five minutes before cutting the umbilical cord, although it’s unclear why this was the standard.

New research has shown that premature babies in particular benefit from prolonged access to umbilical cord blood, which translates to a lower risk of transfusions, anemia and bleeding in the brain. But full-term babies can also benefit, lowering the risk of an iron deficiency that can delay cognitive development. In fact, one study found that waiting three minutes before cutting the cord resulted in slightly better early brain development.

More: How to donate your baby's cord blood

Regardless of the time between delivery and cord cutting, it shouldn’t interfere with the mother holding her baby. “While the baby's nice and warm on your skin, we'll take our time and then clamp," the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Tonse Raju told the Associated Press.

Of course, doctors will not put off cutting the cord if the baby is having problems breathing or needs emergency care. Also, parents who wish to save and store their child’s cord blood for potential future medical use should know that delayed cutting means less blood for banking. Yet again, this highlights the need for patients and parents to be well-informed about the possible risks and benefits of both procedures so they can make the most effective decisions.

More: Big change to umbilical cord protocol is a win for babies

Comments
Follow Us

SheKnows Media ‐ Beauty and Style

Hot
New in Health & Wellness
Close

And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .

SheKnows is making some changes!

b h e a r d !

Welcome to the new SheKnows Community,

where you can share your stories, ideas

and CONNECT with millions of women.

Get Started