ACOG Officially Recommends Delayed Cord Clamping

ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2017
Black and white photo of gloved doctor caring for newborn in the delivery room
Photo: Shutterstock

As you’re drafting your birth plan, don’t forget to think about what happens right after birth. You may not realize that you have a say in when the doctor cuts baby’s umbilical cord. A new recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is encouraging parents and health care professionals to opt for delayed cord clamping whenever possible.

The recommendation, part of an ACOG committee opinion updated this year, is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Nurse–Midwives. If you’ve never thought much about cord clamping, know that it’s the procedure that separates a baby from the placenta. And delaying the procedure has been a hot topic for years.

What is delayed cord clamping?

Essentially, this means not cutting baby’s cord immediately after birth. That being said, a “delay” is only 30 seconds to a minute after birth , according to ACOG. During that time, the umbilical cord will continue to pulsate, giving baby nourishment and oxygen from the mother while he or she learns to breathe.

Other organizations offer longer reommendations for the delay. The World Health Organization, for example, suggests waiting a full minute. And despite endorsing this new ACOG recommendation, the American College of Nurse–Midwives says two to five minutes is ideal.

What are the benefits of delayed cord clamping?

  • In full-term infants, it increases hemoglobin levels at birth, improving iron stores in the first several months of life. This bodes well for development
  • In preterm infants, it improves circulation and boosts red blood cell volume
  • Previous studies suggest it has longer-term benefits too, like improved fine motor skills and enhanced social skills

What are the risks?

  • In some studies, there is a slightly higher rate of jaundice
  • It may delay any resuscitation efforts that are needed in the event of an emergency

Based on current research, ACOG has determined that the benefits outweigh the risks. Especially reassuring: There is no evidence that delayed cord clamping increases the risk of postpartum hemorrhage—something that was previously suggested.

Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you and your baby. A delay shouldn’t change much about the birthing process—the option of immediate skin-to-skin contact included.

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