An American mum was reportedly forced to fire her obstetrician mid-contraction because he refused to implement an increasingly popular technique known as delayed cord clamping.
Taylor Parsons’ mother, Michelle Parsons, recounted the stressful birth via Facebook, saying her daughter opted to deliver her own baby rather than deviate from her birth plan.
“This guy was stunned when Taylor told him to step back as she squatted on the labour bed and delivered her own son in full caul [in the amniotic sac],” the Nevada woman wrote. “It was a beautiful sight to behold!”
Of course, this is not exactly advisable delivery room behaviour. But more and more research is indeed finding benefits to delayed clamping.
While in many cases, a child’s umbilical cord is clamped within 15 to 20 seconds after birth, a growing number of health professionals are delaying the process – some by up to three minutes.
The technique, known as delayed cord clamping, allows up to 80-100 millilitres of blood to flow into the infant’s body, which advocates say improves health and nutrition outcomes. The key benefits identified by researchers include increased haemoglobin levels at birth and improved iron stores for the first several months (which, in turn, can impact cognitive, motor and behavioural development).
Among the high-profile supporters of delayed clamping is the The World Health Organisaiton, which recommends the umbilical cord be clamped at no less than one minute after birth to help prevent the infant from developing iron deficiency and to reduce risk of postpartum haemorrhage.
The shift toward delayed clamping as standard practice began a little over a decade ago, led by a British midwife named Amanda Burleigh.
“I began to question why we were trained to cut the umbilical cord immediately after a baby was born,” she told CNN. “I then started to explore my theory that there must be a link to a child’s health based on when the cord is cut.”
Recent studies have supported Burleigh’s idea, especially in relation to pre-term births.
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In November, a team from The University of Sydney released “clear evidence” that waiting just 60 seconds before clamping a pre-term baby’s umbilical cord reduced the risk of death by one third. Their findings came via a review of 18 trials involving 3000 babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation.
“We estimate that for every thousand very preterm babies born more than ten weeks early, delayed clamping will save up to 100 additional lives compared with immediate clamping,” said lead author and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital neonatal specialist, Associate Professor David Osborn.
“This means that, worldwide, using delayed clamping instead of immediate clamping can be expected to save between 11,000 and 100,000 additional lives every year.”
Why it works is still unclear, as University of Sydney researcher Jonathan Morris told ABC: “It may be that the baby has more time to adapt itself… Is it because there is extra blood in the baby’s system? Or possibly, it’s affecting the baby’s resistance to infection because of an added transfusion of white blood cells.”
Anyone who is considering the procedure is urged to consult their doctor.