The Amazing Placenta
No, I’m not talking about prematurely removing your plate at a restaurant (get your hand off my truffle fries!). I’m talking about your placenta. During pregnancy, the amazing placenta is a temporary organ with a myriad of roles including filtering toxins, eliminating waste, and providing oxygen for the fetus. When the placenta finishes its job, we take a respectful visual tour of it – maybe take some pictures – and then we toss it into medical waste. Or some choose to take it home to encapsulate, bury by a tree, make into a smoothie… whatever your preference. But, when exactly is the job finished?
Delayed Cord Clamping
Once the fetus becomes a newborn (that’s the process of birth, of course), the cord pulsates to the rhythm of the newborn’s heart as it continues circulation of the fetal blood until the cord eventually collapses. Delayed cord clamping (defined anywhere in the literature from >30 seconds for a preterm baby to 1-3 minutes for a term baby) will deliver an additional 80 – 100 mL of blood to the newborn than does early cord clamping. Considering that is equivalent to the average amount of blood per kilogram of the newborn, that is a significant volume! Placental transfusion improves the baby’s blood pressure, oxygenation and ability to regulate temperature. It also decreases the chance of anemia in the newborn without increasing the risk of jaundice. (It does, however, decrease the amount of blood that can be collected for banking.)
Delayed cord clamping is not a new concept. Even Charles Darwin’s grandfather spoke about the benefits:
“Another thing very injurious to the child is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon, which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a part of the blood being left in the placenta which ought to have been in the child and at the same time the placenta does not so naturally collapse, and withdraw itself from the sides of the uterus, and is not therefore removed with so much safety and certainty.” – Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802)
Historically and for numerous reasons, the interval between birth and cutting the cord became shorter and shorter, but many evidence-based studies have emerged that support reemergence of the practice. You can read more about it here. Respect the placenta finishing its job… and me finishing my truffle fries.