Delayed cord clamping (DCC): What is it and what are the benefits for my baby?

Our Health Information Line receives calls and emails from women on a broad range of health issues. This regular column features answers to some of them.

Q: I am due to have my first baby and my midwife asked me if I would like to practise delayed cord clamping (DCC) when baby is born. What is DCC and what are the benefits for my baby?

A: When a baby is born the placenta continues to deliver blood to the newborn via the umbilical cord, which keeps pulsing. The baby is separated from the mother by clamping and cutting the cord. From about the mid-1960s early cord clamping (ECC), clamping and cutting the umbilical cord immediately following birth, became the standard obstetric practice. It was thought that ECC prevented postpartum haemorrhaging.

In more recent years, however, there has been a move away from ECC to DCC. DCC involves not clamping or cutting the cord until the cord has stopped pulsating, usually between two to three minutes. A 2013 Cochrane review found that while ECC did not make any difference to postpartum haemorrhage, DCC did have numerous positive benefits for the baby.

When DCC is practised the baby receives between 80-100 millilitres (ml) of blood more than they would with ECC. This means that the baby also receives more iron, as much as a four to six month supply. The Cochrane review found that babies that had ECC were more than twice as likely to be iron deficient at three to six months than infants whose cord clamping was delayed. Iron stores are important for new babies as iron plays a critical role in early brain growth and development. The blood from the umbilical cord is an important source of iron for the new baby as breastmilk is naturally quite low in iron. Bleeding in the brain and severe infections of the bowel also appear less common with DCC compared to ECC.

Babies who have DCC do, however, have a slightly increased risk of jaundice. Jaundice is caused by the build-up of the substance bilirubin, which gives the skin a yellowish tinge. Jaundice can, though, usually be treated easily with phototherapy.

The review concluded that: “a more liberal approach to delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in healthy term infants appears to be warranted, particularly in light of growing evidence that delayed cord clamping increases early haemoglobin concentrations and iron stores in infants.”

It is great that your midwife is discussing the option of DCC with you as the evidence suggests it is beneficial for your baby. Do keep in mind that there may be circumstances where DCC is not possible (i.e., if the baby required immediate resuscitation). In addition, DCC cannot be carried out if you wish to donate or bank your cord blood/tissue.

If you live in Queensland and have any further questions regarding your pregnancy, you can talk to one of our midwives on the Health Information Line, 3216 0376 or 1800 017676 (toll free outside Brisbane).

I am due to have my first baby and my midwife asked me if I would like to practise delayed cord clamping (DCC) when baby is born. What is DCC and what are the benefits for my baby?

When a baby is born the placenta continues to deliver blood to the newborn via the umbilical cord, which keeps pulsing. The baby is separated from the mother by clamping and cutting the cord. From about the mid-1960s early cord clamping (ECC), clamping and cutting the umbilical cord immediately following birth, became the standard obstetric practice. It was thought that ECC prevented postpartum haemorrhaging.

In more recent years, however, there has been a move away from ECC to DCC. DCC involves not clamping or cutting the cord until the cord has stopped pulsating, usually between two to three minutes. A 2013 Cochrane review found that while ECC did not make any difference to postpartum haemorrhage, DCC did have numerous positive benefits for the baby.

When DCC is practised the baby receives between 80-100 millilitres (ml) of blood more than they would with ECC. This means that the baby also receives more iron, as much as a four to six month supply. The Cochrane review found that babies that had ECC were more than twice as likely to be iron deficient at three to six months than infants whose cord clamping was delayed. Iron stores are important for new babies as iron plays a critical role in early brain growth and development. The blood from the umbilical cord is an important source of iron for the new baby as breastmilk is naturally quite low in iron. Bleeding in the brain and severe infections of the bowel also appear less common with DCC compared to ECC.

Babies who have DCC do, however, have a slightly increased risk of jaundice. Jaundice is caused by the build-up of the substance bilirubin, which gives the skin a yellowish tinge. Jaundice can, though, usually be treated easily with phototherapy.

The review concluded that: “a more liberal approach to delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in healthy term infants appears to be warranted, particularly in light of growing evidence that delayed cord clamping increases early haemoglobin concentrations and iron stores in infants.”

It is great that your midwife is discussing the option of DCC with you as the evidence suggests it is beneficial for your baby. Do keep in mind that there may be circumstances where DCC is not possible (i.e., if the baby required immediate resuscitation). In addition, DCC cannot be carried out if you wish to donate or bank your cord blood/tissue.

If you have any further questions regarding your pregnancy, you can talk to one of our midwives on the Health Information Line (numbers below).

Last updated: June 2017

©Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey 2017 Issue 2.

Tags: 

The content of this publication ("the information") is provided for information purposes only. The information is provided solely on the basis that recipients should verify all the information provided. The information is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic or clinical care purposes. The information is not a substitute for your own health professional's advice and treatment in relation to any specific patient issue. Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by the use of or reliance on the information. While we have made every effort to ensure the information is accurate, complete and current, Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. does not guarantee and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information. External resources referred to in this publication should not be taken to be an endorsement or a recommendation of any third party products or services offered and the views or recommendations provided by these external resources do not necessarily reflect those of Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc.