The practice of immediately clamping the umbilical cord after a baby is born was made popular in 1913. We have now discovered that this can result in up to 10x the risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. There has been a movement to end immediate clamping that is known as delayed clamping, but that does not capture the essence of what is best for baby. I prefer the term optimal cord clamping because there are times when clamping immediately is indeed what is best for baby. Normally waiting an extra 90 seconds to allow the blood in the cord to pump into baby isn’t a delay at all, but is optimal.
Watch this TEDxBrussels video for more detailed information and my introduction of the campaign to change when we clamp the cord. The campaign is TICC TOCC.
The solution: Wait until the cord stops actively pumping fetal blood into the baby, unless there is a strong reason otherwise. This has been studied in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, United Kingdom, USA, and Zambia. Optimal cord clamping (a more accurate term than the more frequent ‘delayed’ cord clamping) has been shown to be both safe and effective at significantly reducing the risk of iron deficiency. Other benefits may include reducing birth asphyxia (inadequate oxygen to the brain) and cerebral palsy. The health benefits from receiving the cord’s pluripotent stem cells may be the most significant impact, but has yet to be understood.
Immediate cord clamping is an active medical intervention with unproven benefit. The WHO no longer recommends immediate cord clamping.
More than a quarter million babies will be born today. The clock is ticking.