7 Fascinating Facts About Umbilical Cords


Seven Fascinating Things I’ve Learned About Umbilical Cord Clamping & Cutting Since Becoming A Doula

Before becoming a Mother and Doula, I didn’t realize there were so many questions about umbilical cords. Honestly, I kind of took them for granted. I knew that somehow they were the connection between mother and baby, and I knew that they were responsible for nourishing the baby in the womb. Once I delved into the birth world, I realized there is SO MUCH the average person does not know about umbilical cords and the pivotal moment when babies officially separated from their mothers.

Here I have listed some of the most common questions that I have received about umbilical cord clamping and cutting.

Umbilical cord cutting:

Why should the partner cut the cord? Shouldn’t I let someone more trained do it?

Partners are asked to cut the cord is because it is a way to include them in the process. It has become a common ritual for the partner to sever the tie between mother and baby. Care providers would not be willing to pass the responsibility of this task to the partner if it were dangerous. No skill is required if the cord is already clamped by the care provider. Freebirthing couples clamp or tie off the cord themselves, then cut it or burn it when the time is right.

Is cutting the cord only for birth partners?

I’ve had a father say, “Well, I don’t know if our baby would ever forgive me for severing their physical bond.” I chuckled, but he had a point. The father or partner is not the only one who can cut the cord! Many mothers choose to do this task themselves. It is ok to think outside the box. I do get a little sad though when people brush it off completely, telling the doctor to do it as if it means nothing. Of course, I’m always looking for deeper meaning in everything and I’m a sucker for rituals and symbolism.

What if I mess it up and their belly button is too big or too small?!

This is a common misconception: the size of our belly button (and whether we have an “innie” or an “outie”) is determined by where our umbilical cord was cut. The umbilical cord is clamped in two places. One clamp is very close to baby, and the other an inch or two down the cord, closer to the placenta. Then the cord is cut between the clamps, and the baby’s end is tied off with string or a rubber band-like closure made especially for this task. Then, for the first week or so of life, the umbilical cord that is left attached dries up and actually falls off. This leaves the baby’s true belly button. Thus, belly buttons are predetermined by our genetics, and have nothing to do with where the cord was cut.

Umbilical Cord Clamping

What is delayed cord clamping?

Delayed cord clamping means that instead of clamping the umbilical cord immediately following your baby’s birth, you or your care provider wait for an allotted period of time before clamping. Your baby is still laid on their mother’s chest immediately after birth. They lay there for warmth and comfort at LEAST until the cord has been clamped and cut.

Is there a benefit to delayed cord clamping?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

“In term infants, delayed umbilical cord clamping increases hemoglobin levels at birth and improves iron stores in the first several months of life, which may have a favorable effect on developmental outcomes.

In preterm infants, delayed umbilical cord clamping is associated with significant neonatal benefits, including improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, decreased need for blood transfusion, and lower incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis and intraventricular hemorrhage.

Delayed umbilical cord clamping was not associated with an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage or increased blood loss at delivery, nor was it associated with a difference in postpartum hemoglobin levels or the need for blood transfusion.”

The fact that delayed cord clamping improves iron stores in babies is an important one. Nature did not intend for babies to be iron deficient! Ever since we have been practicing immediate cord clamping, we have also found it necessary to fortify rice cereal and formula with iron to make up for what they are lacking from birth. Iron is immensely important for neurological development; necessary in order for babies to become smarter at a fast pace.

According to this sourcebabies that receive delayed cord clamping have 40% more blood volume compared to babies that received immediate cord clamping.

This article states that “The evidence of benefit from Delayed Cord Clamping is so compelling that the burden of proof must now lie with those who wish to continue the practice of immediate clamping, rather than with those who prefer—as nature intended—to wait.”

How long should we wait to clamp the cord?

The ACOG recommends a delay in umbilical cord clamping in term and preterm infants for at least 30-60 seconds after birth. Delayed cord clamping causes 40% increase in blood volume, 45% increase in hematocrit, 50% increase in total red cell blood cell volume. 50% of this change happens within the first 60 seconds.  So giving your baby at least 60 seconds of delay is better than nothing.

It is common in the hospitals in my town to wait 90 seconds.

Many traditional birth workers believe the cord should stop pulsing completely before it is clamped and cut. This is the protocol I have followed with both of my boys. It doesn’t take as long as you’d think to allow the pulse to stop. It takes approximately 5 minutes. This guarantees the maximum benefits are achieved.

Is milking the cord the same as delayed cord clamping?

Many providers are too impatient to wait for delayed cord clamping. They “compromise” with their clients by telling them they will “milk the cord” and give baby the same benefits. Visualize squeezing “Gogurt” out of the container. This is what they mean by milking the cord. The truth is that milking the cord is NOT the same thing as delayed cord clamping AT ALL. Stripping the cord leaves babies with too high of hematocrit levels (too much red blood cells) aka polycythemia.

Do you have any questions about umbilical cords? Did you do delayed cord clamping, or do you plan to? Do you or your partner plan to cut the umbilical cord (or have you already)? Drop me a comment! I’d love to hear from you.