If you’re expecting a child, you’re likely learning about the many medical interventions often involved in labor and delivery.

Some of these, like epidurals, might be your choice. Others, like an emergency cesarean delivery, could be medically necessary.

One practice you might have heard about is delayed cord clamping. Delayed clamping means the umbilical cord isn’t clamped immediately after birth. Instead, it’s clamped and cut between one and three minutes after birth.

Currently, most hospitals in the United States practice early (immediate) cord clamping. This means cutting the umbilical cord 10 to 15 seconds after birth or sooner.

Before the mid-1950s, it was standard practice to wait one to five minutes before cutting the cord. Around this time, the number of births in hospitals began to rise.

Research didn’t link specific benefits to a delay in clamping. It was believed early clamping could keep mothers from losing too much blood. So, healthcare providers began clamping sooner after birth.

In recent years, more research has called attention to how waiting to clamp the cord may benefit babies more.

Delaying clamping lets blood continue to flow from the placenta to the newborn baby after delivery. Research suggests this blood can greatly benefit newborns, especially preterm babies.

Unless you’re planning on lotus birth, your baby’s cord will be clamped and cut between a few seconds and a few minutes after delivery.

The cord will be clamped in two places: near your baby’s belly button and farther down the cord. The cord is cut between these clamps.

If you have a partner with you, the delivering doctor or midwife will usually ask them if they want to cut the cord.

The delay length isn’t yet standardized. Medical opinion generally agrees that clamping is delayed when it happens more than 30 seconds after birth.

Waiting one minute allows your baby to receive about 80 milliliters (mL) of blood from the placenta. After three minutes, this increases to 100 mL.

Until recently, most experts recommended holding the baby at or near the level of the placenta (near the vagina) before clamping the cord to increase blood flow to the baby.

It was believed that raising the newborn above this level could allow gravity to pull blood back into the placenta, reducing blood flow to the baby.

Because of that, some doctors and parents may feel reluctant to delay clamping if it also means a delay in skin-to-skin contact for mother and baby.

But a 2014 study looking at the effects of gravity on blood flow from the placenta in 391 babies born in three hospitals found no evidence to suggest the baby’s position affected blood flow.

If you want to delay cord clamping but still hold your baby right after birth, it may be possible to do both. It’s also safe for the baby to latch on and begin breastfeeding right away.

Routine newborn care, like weighing the baby, happens once the cord is cut.

Lotus birth vs. delayed cord clamping

Lotus birth is one delivery method where the cord isn’t immediately clamped or cut. In fact, it isn’t cut at all. Instead, the placenta dries and falls off naturally. This may take a few days to a week.

Delayed cord clamping offers the most benefits to preterm infants, but it also benefits full-term babies and mothers.

A 2013 review linked delayed cord clamping to increased hemoglobin and iron in full-term babies. This can reduce a baby’s risk for anemia.

A 2015 study looked at 263 4-year-olds. Overall, the children whose cords were clamped three or more minutes after birth scored slightly higher on an assessment of fine motor skills and social skills than the children whose cords were clamped 10 seconds or less after birth.

Delayed clamping may reduce the need for blood transfusions and improve circulation in premature babies. It helps lower the risk of bleeding in the brain and necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease that affects almost 5 to 10 percent of premature infants.

A delay in cord clamping has been linked to a higher risk of jaundice. But delayed clamping’s benefits may outweigh this risk, as long as phototherapy treatment for jaundice is available.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), delayed clamping does not increase the risk for postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive maternal blood loss.

Delayed cord clamping is possible whether you have a cesarean or vaginal delivery. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), delayed clamping is just as important for cesarean births.

Research examining the effects of delayed clamping in multiple births is limited. A 2018 study looking at 449 women having multiples found no negative effects of delayed cord clamping for multiple births.

This suggests delayed clamping poses no increased risk if you’re having twins.

Two studies, one from 2015 and one from 2018, found delayed clamping to be safe and beneficial for preterm twins.

Immediate cord clamping is generally necessary if you’re bleeding heavily after giving birth, if the baby isn’t breathing, or if another concern makes prompt medical attention necessary.

The WHO recommends delaying one to three minutes before clamping. The ACOG recommends a delay of at least 30 to 60 seconds for healthy newborns.

The standard practice in many U.S. hospitals is early clamping, so ask your midwife or doctor if they delay clamping.

Including delayed clamping in your birthing plan will let your hospital and care team know your preferences. Just keep in mind early cord clamping might be necessary in some circumstances to keep you and your baby safe.

Some parents choose to preserve blood from the cord after delivery to benefit medical research. This blood is a good source of stem cells. It can be stored and used to treat conditions like leukemia and Hodgkin’s disease.

If you’re thinking about cord banking and would like to delay cord clamping, there are some things to consider.

Delaying cord clamping reduces the amount of blood that can be banked. It may not be possible to delay cord clamping by more than 60 seconds and also bank cord blood.

A 2018 study found that it was still possible to collect cord blood when clamping took place 30 to 60 seconds after birth.

If you want to delay cord clamping and also bank cord blood, your care provider can give you more information about your options.

Research suggests delayed cord clamping is safe and beneficial for you and your baby. Both the WHO and ACOG recommend delayed clamping.

Your doctor or midwife may clamp and cut the cord immediately after delivery unless you ask for delayed clamping.

Mention to your care team if you want to delay cord clamping and any other childbirth preferences you have before your due date. Your doctor or midwife can help you decide on the best option for your delivery.