Baby Signing This is the 25th episode of my podcast for parents and families…
Parents in the Know Podcast Episode 2 – Umbilical Cords and When to Clamp Them
Umbilical Cords and When to Clamp Them
This is the second episode of my podcast for parents and families who want to be in the know about major parenting concerns and issues. Umbilical cords and when to clamp them is the topic under discussion today.
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Today we’re looking at a policy concerning childbirth that has recently changed in the UK after a decade long campaign by a group of health practitioners. The story serves as a great example of how a few determined voices using science and valid evidence to make their case, can change official policy and make things better for thousands of people. We’re talking about clamping the cord: the timing options, the benefits and the risks, if any.
In the 1950s and 60s, immediate cord clamping – that is, clamping the cord the instant the baby is safely out – came into standard practice because of a preventative drug the doctors were giving the mother to reduce her risk of haemorrhaging. The doctors worried that the drug, which has since been replaced with a safer alternative, might harm the baby, so to prevent the baby from receiving the drug through the umbilical cord, they clamped and cut the cord immediately after birth.
This procedure has continued to this day, despite the fact that a safer alternative drug is now in use, and despite the fact that there is no evidence that babies can be or have been harmed by exposure to it. And yes, there are cases in which parents requested that the cord cutting be delayed. In none of these cases has there been any evidence of harm to the baby.
Simply put, early cord clamping was brought in in response to fears for the baby about a drug which was important to the mother. When that drug was replaced with a safe alternative, the early cord clamping was continued, despite the fact that there was no longer a need for it.
If the cord is clamped less than a minute after birth, as is currently still the normal routine in many places, the baby is missing out on almost a third of its blood supply.
What does this mean for the baby’s immediate and long term health?
The biggest issue, and the one with the most evidence behind it, is that the baby becomes iron deficient. This is hardly surprising, considering how much blood they don’t receive, and so have to produce in those first crucial days of life.
Iron deficiency, or anaemia, in young children, has been associated with poor brain development.
The Policy Change
The World Health Organization has a strong recommendation in place that care givers delay clamping the cord for one to three minutes after birth.
In the UK in 2012, the leading midwifery and obstetric bodies, namely the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, changed their guidelines to recommend that caregivers delay cord clamping for around three minutes after birth.
Other countries are following suit, and it’s all thanks to the hard work and determination of a small group of practitioners who saw a common policy and thought to question it.
In the next episode of Parents in the Know we will investigate first aid and how it saves lives, and feature an excellent blog post from one of the dedicated mummy bloggers out there. Saving Lives, next time on Parents in the Know.
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