Delayed Cord Clamping: the danger of delay

Please note that all opinions in this article are that of the author and are not necessarily representative of the views of the UTS Faculty of Health.

By Rosie Gundelach 

An important aspect of a midwife’s practice is their ability to communicate with women and their families in a way that is informative, warm and reassuring.

I recently read an interesting article about the power of language and how we as midwives need to ‘take back’ considerable amounts of the language we use with women and their families.


Photo:  Kala Bernier, Flickr

The article, ‘Physiologic Cord Clamping’, found on Mountain Midwifery Center Inc., specifically looks at the language surrounding delayed cord clamping.

For those needing a quick recap:
In 2012 the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended for all well babies, not requiring resuscitation, the process of clamping and cutting the umbilical cord be delayed by one to three minutes.

A third of a baby’s blood is outside of its body at birth. 

By waiting 90 seconds or until the cessation of the pulsing cord before clamping and cutting gives a baby the opportunity to receive 30% more blood, increasing their oxygen-carrying cells, red blood cells, gain stem cells which prevent and repair damage throughout the body, improve systemic blood pressure and minimise childhood anaemia.


Studies have also looked for links between delayed cord clamping and increased risk of jaundice.

But since 1980, according to Mercer and Erikson-Owen’s, there has not been a randomised controlled study to show statistically significant findings in a link between increased jaundice levels and symptomatic polycythaemia with delayed cord clamped bubs.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘physiological’ as a “characteristic of or appropriate to an organism’s healthy or normal functioning”. 

This same dictionary also defines ‘delayed’ as “a situation in which something happens later than it should” and/or “the amount of time that you must wait for something that is late”.

If you take these definitions of ‘delayed’ in their literal most sense, they’re saying that delayed cord clamping is cutting the umbilical cord later than it should be cut.

It’s no wonder the implementation of delayed cord clamping isn’t standard practice and is not implemented by all health practitioners when the name given to the process doesn’t normalise it, or reflect its benefits.

If waiting for the transfer of placental blood to reach a baby is a physiological mechanism, maybe we should refer to this process, as suggested by Mountain Midwifery Center Inc., as a physiological one, and not label the whole process by the intervention to come (the cutting and clamping of the umbilical cord).

After all, as midwives, our care should be woman-centred and our language should be woman-centred.

So why not make the change when talking to women about this process from using words that sound interventionist (‘delayed cord clamping’) and replace them with more normalising ones, (’physiological cord clamping’)?


  • Alan
    Greene’s Ted Talk: //
  • Mayri
    Sagadi Leslie, 2015, “Perspectives on implementing delayed cord clamping,

Rosie Gundelach is a UTS Bachelor of Midwifery graduate and avid blogger. Check out more of her work at


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