The potential of the blood found within a baby’s umbilical cord and placenta is becoming the talk of many expectant parents. Doctors and scientists have proven that the umbilical cord is extremely valuable, and today pregnant couples are faced with two competing choices about the use of their baby’s cord blood: delayed cord clamping or cord blood banking.
For many years, cutting the umbilical cord immediately after birth has been routine practice. However, in the last decade, research has shown that by doing so, babies are missing out on vital extra blood. This has resulted in recent changes to guidelines and cord clamping practices as well as many mums-to-be changing their birth plans.
But these changes have left many expectant parents wondering: is it possible to choose both delayed cord clamping and cord blood banking?
The answer is yes! Here’s everything you need to know about delayed cord clamping and cord blood banking.
What is delayed cord clamping?
Throughout pregnancy, the umbilical cord carries oxygen, essential nutrients and valuable stem cells from the placenta to baby to help it develop in the womb. It also removes any waste products and passes antibodies to your baby to provide immunity from infections for roughly 3 months after birth.
After birth, the midwife will clamp the umbilical cord. The practice of delayed cord clamping involves waiting for a short period of time before cutting the umbilical cord and is now recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Royal College of Midwives.
NICE guidance recommends that for a healthy mother and baby, the umbilical cord should not be clamped in the first 60 seconds and that it should be clamped before 5 minutes.
How does delayed cord clamping work?
Once baby is born, your midwife will clamp the umbilical cord roughly 3 to 4cm from your baby’s belly button with a plastic clip. They will then place another clamp at the other end of the cord, nearer the placenta.
The umbilical cord will then be cut between these two clamps which will leave a small stump on baby’s tummy. This small stump will eventually dry out and drop off between 5 and 15 days after birth to form your baby’s belly button.
Why wait to clamp the cord?
Despite it being routine practice for many years, clamping the umbilical cord immediately after birth has been shown to reduce baby’s blood supply by up to 34%. Recent research about delayed cord clamping recommends delayed cord clamping as it leads to healthier babies in the short and long term.
According to the BMJ, delayed clamping leads to a reduced risk of complications like
haemorrhages, infections, intestinal damage and anaemia. It has also been shown to improve iron stores in babies for up to 6 months of age.
Delayed cord clamping can provide baby with up to 30% more blood. Considering 34% of babies are born with iron-deficient anaemia, that’s no small achievement.
What are the benefits of delayed cord clamping?
All babies can benefit from delayed clamping, although it may not be possible if there is a
complication in the pregnancy, such as a baby urgently needing oxygen.
Premature babies particularly benefit from the delay, as it means they can receive up to
214g extra blood. The boosted blood count can make all the difference, considering most
premature babies are born underweight. Delayed cord clamping also reduces the need for blood transfusions in premature babies by as much as 10%.
The benefits to your baby can last more than just a few days. Research suggests that they have better physical and neurological development up to four years of age – as well as improved social and motor skills.
It’s hard to believe that a seemingly small decision made when your baby is born could improve their health for years to come – but that’s the power of delayed cord clamping.
What is cord blood banking?
Cord blood banking is the process of collecting and storing blood, and sometimes tissue, remaining in the umbilical cord after birth. This blood contains powerful stem cells, which can be used to treat more than 80 conditions worldwide. Stem cells are currently the subject of thousands of clinical trials which are investigating treatments for diseases and disorders like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Is delayed cord clamping compatible with my birth plan?
Delayed cord clamping is compatible with most birth plans, including caesarean sections and placenta encapsulation.
Many parents have also become increasingly motivated to utilise their child’s cord blood and tissue to its fullest potential. That’s why millions of parents worldwide have included cord blood banking (https://cells4life.com/) in their birth plan.
However, there has been some uncertainty about the compatibility of delayed cord clamping with cord blood banking.
This is because waiting to cut the cord means that there is less blood available for collection. To cryopreserve a blood sample, cord blood banks have routinely required at least 40ml of blood. Even if blood remains in the umbilical cord after delaying clamping, it may have become clotted, making it difficult to collect a viable sample.
In the past, parents have therefore had to choose one or the other.
Fortunately, a private cord blood bank in the UK has now developed a new processing technology called TotiCyte (https://cells4life.com/cord-blood-banking-overview/delayed-cord-clamping/), that collects higher cell counts from smaller samples – allowing parents to protect their baby’s immediate health with delayed cord clamping and their future health, with cord blood banking.
By choosing to delay cord clamping by 2-3 minutes, there is usually a sufficient amount of blood remaining to do a cord blood collection, thanks to the unique technology of TotiCyte. Even if there is not enough blood available for collection, it is still possible to collect powerful stem cells from cord tissue and the placenta with Cells4Life.
Cells4Life is the UK’s leading private cord blood bank, which collects, processes and stores blood remaining in the umbilical cord for future therapeutic use.
Today, the stem cells found in the umbilical cord form the basis of more than 80 life-
changing therapies and there are over 7,600 clinical trials which have shown positive initial results to treat other conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. To date, Cells4Life has released 13 samples for use in some of these cutting-edge treatments.
Find out more about cord blood banking and delayed cord clamping by downloading your free parents’ guide here (https://cells4life.com/welcome-pack-download/?utm_source=FamilyFever&utm_medium=BD&utm_campaign=Blog).