The Problem With Delayed Cord Clamping During C-Sections

Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Patient Care

illustration of stopwatch with hand extended from center, palm up to signal a stop, and a pair of scissors paused before cutting a red hollow cord

There are a variety of medical interventions and practices that are often involved in the labor and delivery process, such as epidurals and emergency cesarean sections.

Another practice is delayed cord clamping. Many hospitals in the United States practice early clamping, where the baby’s umbilical cord is cut immediately. However, delayed cord clamping is becoming increasingly popular as a way to boost babies’ oxygen and hemoglobin levels shortly after birth.

What Is Delayed Cord Clamping?

Delayed cord clamping is the process of waiting a certain amount of time—usually more than 30 seconds—before clamping the umbilical cord after birth. When babies are born, the cord attaching them to the placenta is cut and clamped to form the navel. This was routinely done as soon as possible after the birth for decades, but recent research into the physical effects of delayed cord clamping has made a case for this practice. The umbilical cord continues to pulse after the delivery is complete, transferring blood, oxygen, and stem cells to the newborn for several minutes after their birth. For this reason, the practice of clamping and cutting the cord is increasingly being delayed, especially in cases where there isn’t a medical reason to speed the process up.

Why Is Delayed Cord Clamping Becoming More Common?

The advantages of delayed clamping are becoming more widely understood, with some studies citing a range of potential benefits, including:

  • Increased levels of iron in the newborn baby, which can last until they are 6 months old
  • Increased hemoglobin levels at birth
  • Higher levels of myelin, the white fatty substance that protects the nerve connections in the brain
  • Higher levels of stem cells, which can aid healthy growth and boost their immune system
  • Reduced risk of anemia up to 4 months old
  • Increased levels of blood transferred from the placenta to the newborn, with up to 100 milliliters of blood being transferred over the first three minutes after birth

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends delaying cord clamping when safe to do so. Additionally, the World Health Organization advises medical professionals to delay cord clamping until at least a minute after birth. Many other respected organizations advise delaying cord clamping for as long as five minutes after delivery in cases where the baby is healthy and does not require additional intervention.

Research has shown that delayed cord clamping can offer the same benefits to babies born by cesarean section as it does to those delivered vaginally. Trials have been undertaken to establish whether the benefits of increased iron to the baby outweigh the potential risks to the baby and mother.

Are There Any Risks to Delayed Cord Clamping?

While there are many benefits associated with delaying cord clamping, there are also potential risks that may outweigh the benefits in some cases. The research surrounding cord clamping highlights situations in which maternal and newborn health could be damaged by delaying other medical interventions. However, research also suggests that preterm newborns may benefit most from delayed cord clamping, as the potential increase in blood volume from the placenta can help them to overcome some of the obstacles commonly associated with premature delivery.

Some experts have concerns about the potential for delayed cord clamping to contribute to certain conditions in newborns, including:

  • Hyperbilirubinemia: Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition in which there is an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is formed when red blood cells break down. Delaying cord clamping can result in high levels of red blood cells in newborns, increasing the chances of hyperbilirubinemia requiring treatment. Many babies experience jaundice caused by an excess of bilirubin in their bloodstream as their livers struggle to dispose of waste products.
  • Polycythemia: Another condition caused by an excess of red blood cells in a baby’s system, polycythemia can cause breathing problems, circulation issues, and an increase in the risk of jaundice.
  • Transient tachypnea: This condition is characterized by a fast breathing rate shortly after birth. There are concerns that it can be exacerbated by the additional blood volume that results from delayed cord clamping.

While some of these conditions can be compounded by delayed cord clamping, each case is different, and the benefits of delayed cord clamping must be weighed against the potential risks. Medical professionals are advised to consider delayed cord clamping only in cases where the baby doesn’t require other medical intervention, particularly for preterm infants and newborns with other conditions that need immediate treatment.

Another risk associated with delayed cord clamping is cerebral palsy, often caused by a lack of oxygen to the parts of a baby’s brain that control motor function during pregnancy or childbirth. This might occur when breathing difficulties aren’t treated swiftly enough after delivery. If an attempt to delay cord clamping was the reason that medical intervention was postponed, then you could have a case for compensation.

The Cerebral Palsy Family Attorneys at Janet, Janet & Suggs have helped thousands of families with their cases across the country. Contact us today and speak to one of our medical and legal experts who can advise you on whether you deserve compensation.



Reviewed by:
Trish Fletcher, MS, BSN, CRNP, NNP-BC, ALNC
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner | Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant

Tricia is a dedicated, focused, Birth Injury Legal Nurse Consultant and Neonatal Nurse Practitioner with more than 25 years of experience. Her strong clinical and critical thinking skills, paired with expertise caring for neonates in a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), ensures meticulous medical records review. READ FULL BIO

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?