Some parents are banking their baby’s cord blood at birth to be used in the future if he or she is ever in an accident or have cancer or another life limiting illness. But cord blood is useful for babies from the moment they are born.
In hospital births, most obstetricians view the umbilical cord as a mere waste product of birth and cut it as soon as the baby is born, but it is actually a lifeline for the baby, providing him with oxygen in the moments after the birth when he may be slow to breathe. An umbilical cord can provide oxygen for a baby for around five minutes after delivery. This is natures plan in case he doesn’t breathe straight away.
During this time, blood is still pumping through the cord and into the baby. This blood is rich in nutrients and stem cells and reduces the baby’s risk of anemia, vitamin K deficiency bleeding, respiratory distress syndrome and even death.
Doctors have known this for decades but continue to practice immediate cord clamping. As far back as 1941, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that:
“The placental blood normally belongs to the infant, and his/her failure to get this blood is equivalent to submitting the newborn to a severe hemorrhage at birth.”
Immediate cord clamping may be one of the reasons why all newborns are now offered vitamin K injections or drops at birth. They are more at risk of bleeding and nutritional deficiency if they are not allowed to receive their own placental blood after the birth.
A study published in the Lancet, followed 476 full term infants born in Mexico City. Some had their cords clamped 10 seconds after birth and in others it was delayed for two minutes. When the babies were reviewed again at six months old, those babies who had their cords clamped at two minutes had a significantly better iron status than those where it was clamped immediately.
“The data show that the two-minute delay in cord clamping increased the child's iron reserve by 27-47 mg of iron, which is equivalent to one to two months of infant iron requirements. This could help to prevent iron deficiency from developing before six months of age”, said Kathryn Dewey, a Nutritionalist at the University of California, who took part in the study.
So if you’re pregnant, consider delaying cutting your baby’s cord so he can fully benefit from his own blood.
Sources: The Lancet, Volume 367, Issue 9527, Pages 1956 - 1958, 17 June 2006
De Marsh, Q. B., et al. "The Effect of Depriving the Infant of its
Placental Blood." J.A.M.A. (7 June 1941).
Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.