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In many births, it is routine to separate the baby from the placenta by cutting the umbilical cord. This procedure usually first involves clamping the cord. The umbilical cord clamp thus refers to the devices used to hold the cord in place when the cut is made, and the clamp may stay on for several days while the remaining cord attached to the baby dries.
There can be some variance in appearance of the umbilical cord clamp. Many are plastic and look slightly like a barrette. They usually have teeth that fit together as the cord is clamped, and they may have different fittings on the open side that click in place so a secure fit is achieved. Many medical companies that make the clamps are located in places like India or China, but clamps may be made elsewhere too.
Sometimes a clamp for umbilical cords is sold with a cutter of some sort, and they're usually sold in volume supply. People can’t just buy one but may need to buy hundreds at a time. This may be helpful for hospitals, but could be an issue for midwives who attend home births, as they simply may not need that many clamps, or a supply might last several years at least.
Not every child who is born has an umbilical cord clamp. Some parents cut the cord and prefer to let the whole cord fall off in the ensuing days. Other times the umbilical cord is secured by tape instead of a clamp. There are disputes about which procedure is most healthful.
One thing that is currently at issue is when to apply an umbilical cord clamp and when to cut the cord. It used to be standard for babies to have the clamp and cut at one minute. Now there is some evidence suggesting that waiting until three minutes may be more beneficial to newborns because it allows continued blood communication between the placenta and the newborn, which may affect blood clotting time or iron in blood levels.
This brings up the very nature of the umbilical cord clamp. In addition to providing stability to cut the cord, it cuts off communication with the placenta. This is the natural round of life, but there are some who find this a deeply sentimental aspect of the birth of a child. The connection between mother and child on an elemental level is severed with a clamp and cut, though at the same time, birth brings the opportunity for knowing the child in ways not possible when that baby was in the womb.
I had really hoped to delay clamping and cutting my baby's umbilical cord, but that turned out not to be possible for us. While I was in labor, I passed meconium, meaning my baby had released his bowels while still inside. (It's a marker of distress, but fortunately my baby was fine.)
If the baby had meconium on his face when he starts to cry, he can breathe it in (they call it aspiration) and it can cause pneumonia. If you give birth in a hospital and have passed mec, they cut the baby's cord immediately and whisk him across the room to suction him out. I was so disappointed! (But of course, the healthy baby was the main goal.)
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