When baby is born there is still blood left in the umbilical cord. This blood is being transferred to the baby from the placenta. So, what to do with the cord blood? You have four choices:
- Dispose of it
- Pay a private cord blood bank to keep it for you to use later, if needed
- Donate it to a public cord blood bank either for research or for use in a sick person
- Allow the umbilical cord to drain the blood fully into your baby – delayed cord clamping.
#1 is pretty self explanatory. #2 is very, very expensive. There is usually an initial fee, in the hundreds of dollars and then an annual fee of $800-$1500 per year, every year that you store it. The likelyhood that your child, or a subsequent child of yours will ever need the stem cells in that cord blood is very low.
#3 Donating the cord blood – this is free. You will need to sign some paperwork, but that’s about it. If there is sufficient blood to donate 60cc’s or more, then if there is a match, those stem cells will be used in treatment. If there are 40-60cc’s of blood, then it will be used for research.
#4 Delayed Cord Clamping – This is what I recommend you do with baby’s cord blood. This isn’t extra blood… it belongs to your baby. Imagine how you feel after you’ve donated a pint of blood to the Red Cross… now imagine giving baby that same feeling by immediately clamping the umbilical cord at birth! Blood carries oxygen to the baby… there is no need for baby to breathe with the lungs upon immediate arrival to the outside world – baby is still getting oxygen through the cord. If you cut or clamp the cord too soon, then you can actually cause the need for resuscitation.
This video, by Penny Simkin, beautifully illustrates the necessity for the transfer of blood from the placenta to the baby after birth: Penny Simkin on Delayed Cord Clamping
Here we have a series of photos, taken over a 15 minute period where baby was outside the womb, the placenta still attached to mom on the inside. You can see how the blood drains into the baby and how the cord withers when it it no longer needed: Photo Series of the Umbilical Cord after birth
It is important for baby to get as much of their own blood as possible. This cord blood isn’t extra, left over, or waste product – it’s your baby’s. That said, delayed cord clamping and donating or banking cord blood are incompatible. There isn’t enough blood left in the cord after it stops pulsing to save.
There are many studies on the benefits of delayed cord clamping. From just one study, “Conclusions: Delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in full-term neonates for a minimum of 2 minutes following birth is beneficial to the newborn, extending into infancy. Although there was an increase in polycythemia among infants in whom cord clamping was delayed, this condition appeared to be benign.”
And here, “Results: Ten studies describing a total of 454 preterm infants were identified which met the inclusion and assessment criteria. Major benefits of the intervention were higher circulating blood volume during the first 24 h of life, less need for blood transfusions (p = 0.004) and less incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage (p = 0.002). Conclusions: The procedure of a delayed cord clamping time of at least 30 s is safe to use and does not compromise the preterm infant in the initial post-partum adaptation phase.”
So, when it comes time to cut the cord, and separate baby from her placenta, do seriously consider delayed cord clamping and allowing the blood to fully flow into her.