During pregnancy the umbilical cord connects the fetus to the placenta, this is how they receive nutrients and oxygen in utero. Once the baby is born the umbilical cord is still attached from their belly button to the placenta, the placenta will then be birthed shortly after the baby, that is why it is commonly referred to as "after birth". The nutrient-rich blood that remains within the umbilical cord, the cord itself, and the placenta are valuable forces of life! The use of the associated cord blood is a benefit to the healing of the gestational parent as well as the health and physical development of the child for years to come.
Traditionally, delayed cord clamping has been recorded as far back as biblical times. The custom of allowing the newborn to remain attached to it's primary life force has been seen as a gentle way to allow new souls to transition to living earthside. Some indigenous cultures have referred to the placenta as the tree of life due to its role in sustaining life during pregnancy and the branch like patterns of the blood vessels.
During the last 20 years scholars and medical professionals have studied the practice of delayed cord clamping and have seen e a resurgence in it's popularity due to the many observed benefits and minimal associated risks to parent or child. Recent studies have found what our ancestors already understood, that delayed cord clamping provides up to a 60% increase of red blood cells, a 30% increase of neonatal blood volume, and an infusion of hematopoietic stem cells. We understand this to mean we will see a decreased chance of iron deficiency anemia and the newborn will be better equipped to cope with the transition to life earthside due to their improved capacity to recover from the experience of birth.
As you can see, delaying cord clamping is a long lasting tradition that carries great physical and spiritual benefits! Connecting us to the wisdom of those who came before us as well as to the natural healing gift of blood. Of course once the umbilical cord is clamped some parents choose to take even more steps to preserve the remaining cord blood and/or the placenta for additional long term benefits. Burying, burning, or encapsulating the placenta, and banking the cord blood are just a few additional options you have as a parent to honor your birth experience and promote the overall wellness of yourself, your child, and possibly your family after birth and for years to come.
Look for more on cord blood and after birth throughout the month of July!
Sarah Foster is a Holistic Wellness Educator and Full Spectrum Doula in Altamonte Spring, FL that provides whole person wellness education along with a full spectrum of support for all birthing outcomes. This support includes providing thoughtful emotional, spiritual, and physical support before, during, and after pregnancy and pregnancy release. If you or someone you love are interested in support let's connect! I look forward to meeting you!