After more and more research has proven the benefits of delayed umbilical cord clamping, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has finally acknowledged the practice, and has issued new recommendations for doctors and midwives to hold off clamping on all healthy newborn's umbilical cords for at least 30 to 60 seconds.
"While there are various recommendations regarding optimal timing for delayed umbilical cord clamping, there has been increased evidence that shows that the practice in and of itself has clear health benefits for both [all] infants," Dr. Maria Mascola, lead author of the new ACOG opinion, said via a press release. "And, in most cases, this does not interfere with early care, including drying and stimulating for the first breath, and immediate skin-to-skin contact."
Delayed cord clamping is not new. In fact, under the Unang Yakap protocol established back in 2010 by our Department of Health (DOH), its guidelines already recommend the clamping of the baby's umbilical cord one to three minutes after being born. The World Health Organization (WHO) also includes it in its newborn care protocol along with immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. ACOG’s new guidelines just further reinforces the benefits of the practice.
The new recommendations of ACOG were agreen upon by a committee after recent research showed that while premature infants are likely to benefit the most from the additional blood flow from the placenta, full-term babies (born at 39 to 40 weeks) also benefit from it as well. The blood from the placenta and the umbilical cord has been proven to contain important nutrients, antibodies, and clot-making factors. It has also been the source of stem cells used in cord blood banking, a health investment many moms today are making.
The extra blood volume has been associated to help improve transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell (hemoglobin) volume, and decreased need for blood transfusion in premature babies. It also lessens the chances of the premature infant from suffering from brain hemorrhage and necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease common in preemies wherein the intestinal tissue becomes damaged and begins to deteriorate.
For full-term babies, the additional blood flow from the placenta has been linked to increased hemoglobin levels at birth, improved iron levels which prevents iron deficiency in the first year of life, and long-term neuro-developmental benefits. It should be noted that iron deficiency has been linked to impaired cognitive, motor and behavioral development.
On “umbilical cord milking” or when the blood is manually pushed through the cord to the baby after birth, ACOG’s official opinion paper states that “there is not enough evidence to support or refute” it, noting that more research is underway.