When an umbilical cord is clamped and cut, that is the separation of a mother and baby unit. They have been vitally connected for nearly (or over) nine months. The physical connection between them has then been severed.
After a birth the cord does not immediately stop pulsing. The pulsing (movement of blood) continues until the placenta has released from the uterine wall and most times even after that for a short period of time. As long as the placenta is still attached in the uterus, nutrients and oxygen continue to be pumped to the baby with the pulse of the mother's heart. Those nutrients, especially the oxygen, are vital to the baby's survival until the baby begins breathing and obtaining its own oxygen supply. If the cord is cut immediately after birth, that vital supply is removed and you must be sure that the baby immediately begins breathing on its own. If the baby has a problem establishing its own life sustaining breathing pattern, that supply through the cord becomes even more vital.
Most of the time a cord will continue to pulse for five to eight minutes. But if the baby is having trouble, it seems the mother's body senses it and the pulsing will continue for an extended time. I have seen a cord continue to pulse for 45 mintues when the baby was struggling. That extra time gives you more time to work on resusitation and assisting the baby to establish its own oxygen supply.
Even after a placenta detaches, the pulsing will continue for a short time (a few minutes). This give the baby more of its own blood supply including plasma, red and white cells and platelets. That puts the baby in a better position to have a good start in life.
Immediate cord clamping loses all these advantages. The only thing that is gained is that it allows the baby to be moved to a separate place, away from the mother, so that doctors and nurses can work on the baby. On a very rare occasion that may be of more value that the advantages gained by delayed cord clamping. Most of the immediate clamping and cutting of the cord is only done for the convenience of the medical staff.
by Judy Kay Jones, CPM