June 4, 2014

A subject that comes up often when discussing umbilical cord banking is when the baby’s umbilical cord should be clamped. The umbilical cord is the literal link between mother and baby, and the source of everything the baby needs to grow, including nutrients, blood and oxygen.

After birth, however, when is your baby able to sustain itself on his or her own? Cord blood clamping is typically done within 20 seconds or up to two minutes after birth. It is at this time that cord blood collection can begin.

Some parents worry though that if their baby’s umbilical cord is clamped too early, he or she could be missing out on the valuable benefits provided by that maternal blood flow. This is a valid concern but research has shown that delayed clamping is not necessary to ensure your baby receives the proper amount of blood from the umbilical cord. In studies done by researchers in the United States, Sweden and Canada looking at blood volume changes after birth1 , they found that more than 90 percent of babies’ blood volume was achieved within the first few breaths taken after birth in healthy, full term babies.

The decision on when to clamp your baby’s umbilical cord ultimately rests with you and your health care provider. (Though circumstances that arise during delivery could affect that decision.) Even if you decide to wait up to two minutes after birth before you clamp your baby’s umbilical cord, you can still collect the cord blood for storage at a cord blood bank. However, if too much time passes and the blood begins to clot, it will be unusable for stem cell transplants and will not be able to be collected.

Your baby’s umbilical cord holds an incredible gift for your child – in utero, immediately following birth, and for life, if you choose to store your baby’s cord blood, preserving the valuable stem cells it contains. Most healthy full-term babies have over a million blood-forming stem cells in their umbilical cord blood and these stem cells are currently being used in the treatments of more than 80 diseases.

1. Philip AG, Saigal S. When should we clamp the umbilical cord? Neoreviews 2004;5:e142–54

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