Cutting the cord: the benefit of late umbilical cutting.

Few moments in life are more precious than the birth of a child and the prospect of new life, a bright future and memories to come make parents excited. Everyone hopes the child will be healthy and strong, and as such much care is taken by health care professionals to help improve the odds of a successful delivery. One of the most common surgical procedures following birth is the clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord when the child is born. The umbilical cord acts to nourish the newborn in the womb with oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. This cord is often cut soon after delivery, on average 10-15 seconds, however new research published in Pediatrics questions whether newborns may be better served if this cord is cut later.

The timing for cord cutting has been debated for years with both camps having arguments for their case. Early cord cutting has historically been done with minimal evidence in its favour. Some researchers suggest that delaying the cutting may result in the newborns blood having too may red blood cells in it or in hypothermia but this may only be true for preterm babies. On the flip side, later cord clamping and cutting has been historically viewed as being more physiologic. The study in Pediatrics looked at 64 pregnant mothers and split them into two groups. One group received early clamping at the standard 10-15 seconds and the other group was clamped 2 min. The researchers were particularly interested in how the late clamping would affect the levels of anti-oxidants in the blood of the newborns because of research showing that the act of giving birth induces a large rush of oxidants into both the mother’s blood and the newborns blood. This would imply that there would need to be some system in place to counteract the increase in oxidants. The researchers saw that the newborns that had their umbilical cord cut later had a greater amount of anti-oxidants in their blood and also had a moderation of their inflammatory responses.

This research suggests that cutting of the cord later may benefit the newborns ability to combat oxidant stresses in its new life. It remains to be seen if there is any benefit to later cord cutting beyond the early anti-oxidant effects. A larger study that follows newborns for months or years after their late cord cutting would likely be needed to implement this change in the hospitals for good. A conversation with your midwife or doctor may be a good way to learn more about late cord cutting and how it may or may not benefit your baby. We only want the best for our babies and this research may help us ensure they are set up for health early in life


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