One of the most physical expressions of the mother-child bond is the umbilical cord, which not only connects mom and baby, but carries oxygen, nutrients and antibodies from the mother’s bloodstream to her growing child. After birth, the umbilical cord still contains a valuable supply of iron and stem cell-rich blood with potential immediate and long-term benefits to your child. The choices you make for your baby are endless. We’re here to help ensure your baby’s possibilities are endless, as well. Here’s what parents need to know about the umbilical cord and what they can choose to do with it after birth.
Delayed Cord Clamping
Standard medical procedure has been to clamp a baby’s umbilical cord within fifteen seconds of delivery, but some parents are choosing delayed cord clamping (DCC). Delayed cord clamping basically means that blood is allowed to continue to flow from the placenta to the baby longer before the cord is clamped – providing oxygen, nutrients, and increased blood volume1 to help support the baby’s transition to life outside the womb. While the optimal timing of this “delay” is not consistently defined,2 what is known is that in preterm infants delayed cord clamping has shown to provide the benefits of increased blood volume, reduced risk for transfusion, and the decrease incidence of intracranial hemorrhage.1 Delayed cord clamping has also shown to lower the frequency of iron deficiency anemia in term infants in settings with poor medical resources.1 There are instances where delayed cord clamping should be avoided, including with babies with known congenital issues and/or whose well-being is a concern (irregular heartbeat, etc.), multiple births and placental abnormalities (placenta previa, etc.).2,3 Expectant families should talk with their healthcare provider about what birth plan is right for them.
Cord Blood Banking
Typically after birth, the blood remaining in the placenta and the umbilical cord are discarded after the cord is clamped and cut, but parents can choose to save and bank their baby’s umbilical cord tissue and cord blood –powerful and potentially life-changing sources of stem cells – for potential future use. Stem cells can heal the body, promote recovery, and offer an enormous amount of therapeutic potential. Today, cord blood stem cells could be used to treat your child, or a matched sibling, if they ever become sick with certain diseases of the blood and immune system. Stem cells from cord blood have been used for over twenty years in the treatment of more than eighty diseases and disorders,4 and stem cells from cord tissue are currently being evaluated in 30+ clinical trials as a potential treatment for heart disease, stroke and spinal cord damage, among others.5 Cord blood collection is a painless, easy and safe procedure that does not affect your labor, delivery, or baby in any way and the entire process takes just minutes to complete.
If you have already made the decision to do delayed cord clamping and would also like the option of collecting and banking your baby’s cord blood and/or cord tissue with CBR, you don’t have to choose one over the other –both can be part of your birth plan. The collection of your baby’s cord blood and tissue occurs immediately after clamping, though the longer you choose to delay means less cord blood will be available for collection.6 Delayed cord clamping does not affect the collection of cord tissue, which is another source of stem cells that may help heal the body in different ways than that of cord blood, although research is in the early stages. Discuss the potential benefits both cord blood and tissue banking and delayed cord clamping can provide to your baby with your delivery provider.
1. ACOG Committee Opinion, “Timing of Cord Clamping After Birth”, No. 543, 2012 (reaffirmed 2014).
2. Philips AG et al. When should we clamp the umbilical cord? Neoreviews 5, e142–54 (2004). Accessed: June 20, 2016.
3. “SMFM Consult–Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping.”Contemporary OB/GYN. UBM Medica, LLC, a UBM company, 2016. Web. Date of Access: April 10, 2015.
4. Ballen KK, Verter F, Kurtzberg J. Umbilical cord blood donation: public or private? Bone Marrow Transplant. 2015;50:1271-1278.
5. Trounson A, Thakar R, Lomax G, Gibbons D. Clinical Trials for Stem Cell Therapies. BMC Medicine. 2011;9:52.
6. Allan et al, “Delayed Clamping of the Umbilical Cord After Delivery and Implications for Public Cord Blood Banking;” Transfusion; Nov 2015.