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umbilical cord

Optimal Cord Clamping: why it is so important

What is optimal cord clamping? And why does it differ to delayed cord clamping?

Your placenta is an amazing organ that feeds your baby with nutrients from your own oxygenated blood. It also removes your baby’s waste products. At birth, a third of your baby’s blood is still retained inside the placenta and it takes some time for that blood to pass to your baby.

During the old practice, the midwife/doctor would immediately clamp the cord with a plastic cord clamp and then cut it. However, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows it is more beneficial to wait for the cord to empty. Optimal cord clamping is leaving the cord until it has stopped pulsating and is completely empty of blood. Delayed cord clamping usually has a time restriction on it. It just means that the cord is not clamped straight away but could be clamped before the cord is empty of blood.

optimal cord clamping
Left: a cord full of blood belonging to your baby. Right: the cord has emptied after passing most of the blood to your baby.

It took one midwife to campaign for change

It took many years and a lot of hard work, and lots of persuading of old school healthcare practitioners who were stuck in their ways. But finally, after the successful #waitforwhite campaign led by Midwife Amanda Burleigh, the practice has changed to wait at least 3 minutes before clamping the cord. Ideally, the cord should be left well alone until it finishes pulsating, ie until the placenta has emptied out all the blood belonging to your baby.

The old medical practice was denying blood that belonged to your baby. A third of the baby’s blood is left in the placenta after they’re born. That’s a big proportion of your baby’s body weight!

umbilical cord

This practice of optimal cord clamping has been found to:

  1. protect your baby from anaemia for up to 6 months of age
  2. increase the amount of stem cells in their system
  3. allow extra blood to flow to your baby’s lungs causing them to expand and start working
  4. allow more time for your baby to make a successful transition to breathing and remain well oxygenated
  5. furthermore, it will also help your baby start off life earth-side with a healthier weight
  6. Decreased umbilical infections

However, even though the practice has changed it is still vital you let your midwife/doctor know you’d like to practise optimal cord clamping. Some “old-school” practitioners still clamp and cut almost straight away.

After undertaking a poll with my yoga students, a staggering  two thirds of their babies were denied their full quota of blood! This is despite there being no medical reason as to prevent this from happening.

You may be thinking about writing your birth plan. What will you decide to do with the umbilical cord once your baby has been born? The take home message is to be insistent and explicit in your birth plan. 

I run online birth plan writing sessions where we go into detail about the best way to write your plan. This session can last between 2–3hours.

Book your birth plan session