I remember being present for the birth of both of our children, though my level of involvement took a new turn at the birth of our second child. Just moments after his delivery, as he lay crying in the hands of the doctor, she handed me a pair of scissors and told me to cut the umbilical cord.

This, of course, took me completely by surprise, and I first paused to look at her in bewilderment before lining up the blades and cutting the cord, figuring that I had to act fast since our son was crying and needed to be freed from the last constraints of the womb. It turns out, however, that my desire for haste may have been misguided.

It is standard procedure to cut a baby’s umbilical cord within 30 seconds to a minute after birth, but doctors are beginning to question this practice and are looking into the potential health benefits of keeping it intact and waiting longer before they cut the cord.

In a recent article in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, experts are suggesting that leaving the cord intact for a longer period would allow more of the umbilical cord blood to flow to the child and may have significant health benefits. The cord blood transports nutrients, oxygen and stem cells to the baby. Stem cells have been in the news recently for having a great deal of therapeutic potential.

The news is particularly relevant in light of the fact that many common health issues with newborns are linked to developmental problems with their organs, a situation that might be aided by the infusion of stem cells, which can mature into any organ in the body. This benefit may be especially true for premature babies and those suffering from malnutrition. Furthermore, some experts believe that such disorders as respiratory distress, certain forms of lung disease, anemia, and eye problems could potentially be avoided. However, in certain instances, especially where resuscitation is required, immediate cutting of the cord is necessary.

Cutting the cord early has only been practiced in the past 50 years, coinciding with the modern practice of delivering babies. When a baby first enters the world, the placenta and umbilical cord begin pulsing in order to pump blood to the baby. Once the blood equilibrates, the cord becomes still and the flow of blood ceases. Currently, it is common practice for doctors or midwives to clamp the cord within 30 seconds to a minute after birth. The basis for this timeframe is not completely clear, though it does facilitate the harvesting of cord blood stem cells. The authors of the current study believe that this clamping should be delayed, at least until the cord stops contracting and delivering its blood to the baby.

Historically, babies were born by having the mother in a more upright position to help facilitate the delivery of the child (a position still practiced today in certain cultures). When this method is employed, gravity helps to ensure the complete transfer of blood.

For now, there is no clear consensus to which approach is better, or for that matter, which one will be employed by the doctor. However, the current paper does offer some compelling thoughts on that endorse taking a delayed approach.

If you are expecting a child and have questions or concerns, voice them to your doctor. For more information, check out the website WebMD.com.