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One of the most iconic post-birth images is that of the umbilical cord being cut. If you’re expecting a child or are thinking of having one, you’ve probably pictured this moment in your head before, and wondered if you or your partner would cut the cord. And if the births we see in movies and on television are to be believed, it’s a step that needs to be carried out as soon as the baby comes out.

In reality, that’s not the case.

A greater push is being made to encourage parents to consider waiting to cut the umbilical cord for a certain amount of time following the birth, typically, between 5 and 15 minutes. Why? Known as delayed cord clamping, the reason behind it is to allow the umbilical cord to complete its primary task: filtering your baby’s blood. Simply put, when your baby is born, they emerge from the birth canal with an umbilical cord that is still filled with blood. The umbilical cord is what attaches your baby to the placenta, which is a separate organ attached to the lining of the uterus that contains your baby’s blood supply.

What are the benefits? This blood is rich with oxygen, stem cells and nutrients transferred from your blood supply that are vital for your baby’s health. If you cut the cord right away, your baby could lose up to one third of its total blood supply. Allowing the cord to remain attached longer provides them with more iron and may reduce their risk for anemia and even asthma. It may also be linked to the prevention of certain neurological and behavioral disorders, but more research needs to be conducted to confirm these benefits.

If you choose to opt for delayed cord clamping, you’ll still be handed your baby directly after birth and, barring any complications, be allowed to hold it while the blood transfers from the cord to your baby’s body. Once that process is complete, the cord will turn white in color and can be clamped and cut, just as you normally would. Not convinced? Then take a look at this article by Mark Sloane MD from April 25, 2016. He’s a pediatrician who believes that the evidence in favor of delayed cord clamping is too strong not to do it.

It’s crucial to discuss this option with your doctor to make sure it’s a well-known part of your birth plan. Making sure your doctor understands your wishes before you go into labor will make the entire process go smoother for a less stressful delivery. It’s also important to note that should you choose delayed cord clamping, you won’t be left with any cord blood to store in case your child experiences a serious health issue later on in life. Your doctor can go over all the options with you in detail, which you can then discuss with your partner before making a final decision.

Just because we hear about one way to do something, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Understanding all your options means you can make your birth experience just what you want it to be and delayed cord clamping is just one such option to consider that can help you look out for the health of your baby in an entirely new way.

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