What is an Umbilical Cord Clamp?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

An umbilical cord clamp may be used to hold the cord in place when a cut is made to separate a newborn baby from the placenta.
An umbilical cord clamp may be used to hold the cord in place when a cut is made to separate a newborn baby from the placenta.

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.

A newborn's umbilical cords contain stem cells that might be used to treat blood diseases or immune system disorders.
A newborn's umbilical cords contain stem cells that might be used to treat blood diseases or immune system disorders.

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.

A number of studies have linked umbilical cord length to high risks for fetal malformation.
A number of studies have linked umbilical cord length to high risks for fetal malformation.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


My response to this belief presented by doctors as one of their fear factors to allow their team to do hasty umbilical cord clamping, and as posted in post no. 2.

I have a different point of view: Regardless of the presence of greenish poo, the baby will benefit to be revived on the unclamped umbilical cord because the child is yet breathing through the umbilical cord, which is yet attached inside the mother's womb. The baby is often not breathing on his own but is still getting oxygenated blood from the umbilical cord if it is not tied or clamped off.

Furthermore, the more blood the baby has inside its body, the more opportunity natural immunities have to deal with bacteria of any kind. A lesser amount of whole blood in the baby's system may mean doctors have to give the baby artificial fluids to keep the baby from severe dehydration, and add artificial nutrients to keep the baby alive.

Most babies survive birth that weakens them, but that is not the ideal manner of afterbirth care. The best afterbirth care is all revival with the unclamped umbilical cord. This is the child's best chance to meet life without additional struggles and be able to compete.

I am submitting a petition to the United Nations to deal with false teachings of the organized medical groups, who are of one thought concerning early cord clamping, but do conceal their interest in taking the baby's cord blood for their own stakeholders group in human cells. Sometimes, if you call 911, the dispatcher may order tying off the umbilical cord using anything handy, and a dirty shoelace might used. The cord should never be handled with unclean hands, or by a person in unclean clothing, and certainly, nothing dirty should be used to tie into the cord or to cut it off. This is what has caused, in the past history prior to the mid 1800's, both the child and the mother to frequently die.

They may have both died after germs got into an open body sore, which may have been caused by an accident or by medical means. The only visual reason to have to clamp or tie off the cord is for a torn cord, or for a knife wound in the cord or the placenta or both of them.


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.)


If your baby is sent home with the plastic cord clamp still attached, it is very difficult to remove by yourself without the special cutting device that the hospital has. If this is the case, you can remove it safely after you have checked to make sure the cord is dried sufficiently.

If there's any doubt about it being dry, you can tie a soft piece of yarn on the cord between the baby and the cord then remove the clamp. There are no nerves in the cord so don't be afraid of pulling the string tightly.

To remove the clamp, you need to have another person hold the baby's legs steady so you don't risk injuring him in the process. Take a clean safety pin (the larger the better), open it, and place the sharp end into the area where the two pieces clamp together. This is the opposite end to the rounded end. Do not pry on the sides but put it directly into the area on the end. This works a bit like a child's hair clasp or barrette. Wiggle the pin up and down into the crack until the clamp comes apart. Clean the umbilical cord itself with alcohol. The cord should fall off within two weeks.

You may notice old blood the color of prune juice from the area, which is normal. There should not be any foul odor or redness around the cord. If this occurs, it could be a serious infection and a doctor needs to be notified immediately.

Always handle the cord and clamp with clean hands.

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