Should Dads Cut The Cord?

father holding his young child

To snip or not to snip? That’s the question facing many men during the birthing process. Discussing who will cut the umbilical cord should be added to the list of things to talk about before your baby is born. Things can happen quickly and feel overwhelming during the birth itself so there probably won’t be a good time to discuss it in the moment.

Take a few minutes to think about and decide what you would like to do well before the due date. You can always change your mind on the day, but at least you will have done your homework and given it some thought beforehand. 

In this article let’s talk about this subject in more detail looking at when and who should cut the cord, why some men want to do it and some other ways which fathers can be involved in the birth process.

When should you cut the cord?

The umbilical cord is vital when the baby is in the womb, as it’s how all the nutrients they need to develop inside the womb are delivered. Once the baby is born the cord needs to be cut and tied off. That’s when we say hello to the belly button!

Until fairly recently, the cord was usually cut almost immediately after the baby’s birth. Now, there is scientific evidence that waiting a short time before cutting the cord is best. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), delayed cord clamping can benefit brain development in babies, although the jury is still out on exactly how long to wait. The WHO advises waiting 1-3 minutes before cutting the cord, while Healthline presents an argument that suggests a longer timeline of 5 minutes is needed. This is something to discuss with your midwife or doctor and partner.

Who should cut the cord?

In the case of a medical emergency a doctor or nurse may need to be the one to cut the cord. Otherwise, there is no right answer to this one. You can ask your midwife or doctor to cut the cord and leave it at that. Or, if it’s something mum or dad want to do, talk with your midwife and/or doctor to let them know your preference. 

Why do some dads want to cut the umbilical cord?

For many dads, cutting the umbilical cord provides a physical role in the birth of their baby. It can be a rite of passage for dads as they enter fatherhood, especially for the first time. There is some initial evidence that dads increase their emotional attachment to their baby by cutting the cord. This is because of the emotional investment they gained from being a physical part of the birthing process. You can read this research here.

That being said, do remember that a dad is still a dad whether they cut the cord or not. Nothing can take away the fact that you are a father once your bundle of joy arrives! 

When did fathers start cutting the cord?

There was a major shift from the 1960s to the late 1970s when fathers were infrequently present at the birth of their babies, to a time when they were more often there than not. According to an article by the Social History of Medicine, by the 1980s the father’s presence at the birth had been normalised. Today, many of us find it hard to imagine another viewpoint. Fathers taking on the role of cutting the cord is a newer development over the last 40 years and continues to be a popular choice when offered to new dads. 

What percentage of dads cut the umbilical cords?

There are quite a few different reports on this one. One midwife shared around 95% of fathers who are offered the choice to cut the cord, do take it. The general consensus is that the majority of fathers will cut the umbilical cord when they can. 

Can fathers cut the cord for a C section?

Yes they can, unless there are any unexpected complications. It’s important to let your midwife and doctor know that you would like to do this so that they can plan accordingly. 

Symbolism of cutting the cord

The cutting of the cord symbolises the end of pregnancy and the start of the baby’s life outside the womb. Once the cord has been cut, the baby no longer has an ongoing supply of nutrients on demand and requires a different type of care. For new parents, this means their baby has officially arrived and their important job as caregivers has begun!

As a dad, it’s hard to watch their partner travel through pregnancy and overcome its many challenges, while at the same time being unable to share the challenges. The birth is no different, as there are some things that are out of a dad’s hands. Most dads do all they can to support their partners, but many would like to do more. The act of cutting the cord can give dads an active role in their baby’s birth. For some dads, it is also a rite of passage they want to experience as we discussed earlier.  

What happens if you don’t cut it?

It is important for the cord to be cut because over time an infection could develop in the placenta and travel directly to the baby. You may decide that dad will not cut the cord and that is just fine.

The midwife or doctor can cut the cord and will be happy to do so. The birthing mother can also cut the cord if they choose to do so. If cutting the cord is not for you, then don’t worry, it will still happen! 

What did they used to do with the umbilical cord?

Today, more often than not the cord is treated as medical waste along with the placenta. It is not uncommon to save cord blood in case it is needed to support medical intervention in the future. This is best discussed with medical professionals. Over time and in different cultures, people have been known to keep the cord. 

What other ways can dads be a part of the birth process?

Not all dads will cut the cord of their newborn baby, and even those who can may still want to become more involved throughout the pregnancy and birth. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Attend pre and post-natal classes with your partner

As dads, it can be important to attend classes about pregnancy and birth. This way, you’ll have all the information you’ll need to support your partner and new baby’s arrival. Many couples do this together and find it helpful as they prepare for their baby. 

  • Discuss the birth plan together with your partner

All pregnant women will discuss the birth of their baby with a midwife or doctor as a part of their regular appointments. It is good for the father to be a part of the discussion, whether that happens at home together or at an appointment. Decisions might end up being made in the moment by a medical professional out of necessity and things don’t always go to plan. Yet, by being a part of the planning dads can be much more involved. 

  • Take part in some pregnancy rituals with their partner

It’s worth checking with your partner first in case they would like some alone time or don’t feel up to it. Some ideas of things to do together are a massage, shopping for baby items, preparations at home or even a baby-moon (a trip away together before the baby arrives)!

  • Be there for their partner during labour and the birth

When dads are present and supportive towards their partner during labour and the birth of their baby, everyone benefits. By going through the experience together, even though you are playing very different roles, you help one another. It may not be possible to be there for a number of reasons, but when you can be it can make all the difference for both partners and your baby.

  • Skin-to-skin

A practical thing you can do after the baby is born is try skin-to-skin contact. This means holding your unclothed baby on your bare skin for a while. This drives the bonding process and is wonderful for both you and your baby. Those special newborn cuddles are also second to none!

should dads cut the umbilical cord
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