How can I delay my baby’s cord being clamped?

More and more studies suggest delayed cord clamping is good for your baby - but how do you ask for it?

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Hot on the heels of a study carried out by nursing professors at Rhode Island University, which suggests that delaying clamping a pre-term newborn baby’s umbilical cord by just 30 to 45 seconds can improve their motor functions, we decided to ask our MFM mums if their midwife delayed clamping the cord after their baby was born, or if they had discussed delayed cord clamping with their midwife prior to the birth.

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One of our mums, linz1234, told us: “It was never mentioned to me whilst pregnant or in labour but I ended up with an emergency C-section in the end. It will be interesting to see how many people it was mentioned to, though.”

As this most recent study is part of a growing body of evidence suggesting there are great benefits to delayed cord clamping in low-risk births – in particular that the baby will have a healthy blood volume for life outside the womb, and a full count of red blood cells, immune cells and stem cells – here at MFM we thought it was important that our mums knew how to ask for it.

How do you delay cord clamping?

MFM spoke to Janet Fyle, Professional Policy Adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), about what to do if you want to request delayed cord clamping. First things first, she says, above all midwives and women need to be educated on the subject.

“People have to know the facts,” says Janet. Their decisions need to be informed, but above all it’s a conversation that should be had before birth with a midwife. 

“If a woman talks to the midwife, the midwife will do what the woman requests if she can. It could be included in your birth plan – but it’s important to remember that it might not be possible, for example, if it’s been a long labour, forceps delivery or C-section or there may be other reasons.” 

So what’s vital, says Janet, is that you have a conversation about delayed cord clamping antenatally. Janet agrees that while you can ask your birthing partner to bring it up during labour, it’s really something you and your midwife should have discussed previously. 

As with all elements of a birth plan, there has to be an amount of flexibility and there may be reasons why delayed cord clamping isn’t possible, but at least if you’ve had the conversation initially you know your midwife is aware of your desire for it to happen.

What if you want to donate your cord blood?

Another option you might want to consider is donating your cord blood (the blood form your placenta and umbilical cord). The stem cells in this blood can help to cure a variety of diseases, and is collected by charities such as the Anthony Nolan Trust.

Even if you want to donate cord blood you can still delay clamping: the group will work with your birth plan to help. Take a look at the Anthony Nolan website for more information

More on cord clamping

The RCM, World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Institute for Health Care Excellence have acknowledged the benefits of delayed clamping (1 to 3 minutes) in low-risk birth situations – although this should be weighed against a very small increased risk of jaundice.

In April this year UK midwife Amanda Burleigh got together a group of medical experts who helped amass evidence that eventually led to NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) changing its guidelines. These now state that doctors or midwives should NOT routinely clamp the cord ‘earlier than one minute from the birth of the baby’.

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