Should Dads REALLY Cut the Umbilical Cord? (In-Depth Guide)

Man carrying his baby in a silhouette

Are you a father facing the prospect of your baby’s birth and you’re wondering if you should cut the umbilical cord, perhaps to meet expectations?

When you feel you “should” be doing something it becomes a loaded question. Cutting the cord could be a symbolic gesture and while some fathers may want to perform this duty, some don’t. I cut it. But which camp do you fall into?

Should Dads Cut the Umbilical Cord?

Cutting the umbilical cord is a very personal choice. New dads are being allowed to perform this role for several reasons. Some may choose to do it for symbolic reasons while others want to feel proactive during the birthing process. Other fathers opt to snip the cord as a way of bonding with their baby and acknowledging their little one’s existence as an independent person. 

However, some moms may want to cut the cord themselves and this is a discussion that should be held between both parents. 

A mother may feel that she’s carried the baby throughout the pregnancy and that cutting the cord is symbolic of releasing the physical link formed between herself and the baby. On the other hand, moms may want the father to play a significant role in the birth of their child and this is one act he could perform to welcome the baby into their family. 

What’s essential to remember is that there’s no set rule as to who cuts the cord. Dads must never feel they have to cut the cord but if they want to they must talk about it. Preparing for fatherhood is a big deal (I’m talking from personal experience here!) and I also find reading parenting books helped me to decide what role to play during birth and afterward. 

Do Most Dads Cut the Cord? 

Midwives report that most dads do like the idea of cutting the cord at birth. These fathers feel it’s an opportunity to build a close and emotional bond with their newborn baby. However, this doesn’t mean that those dads who decline the honor have a lesser bond with their child. 

It also happens that dads who initially agree to cut the umbilical cord pull out at the last moment after becoming squeamish during the birthing process. 

What Percentage of Dads Cut the Cord?

In a study, 36.2% of dads agreed to cut the umbilical cord when asked by midwives. But, not all of them see this through at the time of birth. According to the same study, 20% declined when offered to cut the umbilical cord. This could be because the reality of seeing the cord in real life makes them feel nauseous and some fathers are even known to faint at this time!

The percentage of fathers who don’t want to cut the cord isn’t necessarily showing disinterest in the whole process. They simply can’t stomach the thought of holding and cutting something that looks and feels anatomically part of the mother’s and baby’s body!

Read on since I’ll be also writing about how to prepare for that special moment!

Why Do (Some) Dads Cut the Cord?

Dads who do cut it choose to perform this act for many reasons:

  • As already mentioned, some fathers see this as an opportunity to create a closer bond with their baby
  • For others, it’s a symbolic rite to “break” the physical attachment between the mother and the baby. Once the baby enters the world, he or she is embarking on an independent journey. 
  • Some dads do it to indicate their role in the child’s life and their commitment to being a father and parent figure. Once the cord is cut, the father will be able to hold the baby giving him his first physical connection with the little one. 
  • Other fathers see it as a great honor and symbolic of creating a family unit, welcoming the baby into the world, and celebrating the birth. 

What’s essential to point out here is that not all fathers cut the cord and in these cases, it, in no way, minimizes how the dad feels about their newborn coming into the world These fathers still value the birth process while welcoming their precious baby in the family. The mere act of holding a baby after birth can form a close and emotional bond between the newborn and the father. 

How to Prepare as a Dad Both Mentally and Physically?

baby first birth in a hospital

You think you’ve decided to cut the cord or you’re still hesitating about it? It’s certainly a more daring act than simply touching mom’s belly. I’ve got you covered so you’re more prepared. You might be less likely to chicken out.

It helps to understand mentally why you’ve made a certain decision. This way, when it comes to doing the deed on the day, you’re fully aware of the real reasons for performing the task. This will help you to feel more prepared and less intimidated about the process.

Know the answer to the why

According to a journal study of Advanced Nursing, fathers who cut their babies’ umbilical cords show an improvement in emotional involvement 1 month after the baby has been born. The journal also suggests that it enhances the mother’s well-being. 

In addition, know the answer to the big question of why you want to cut the cord, so be aware of one of the reasons in the bullet points of the previous section.

When you have a clear, mental picture of why you’re doing it, you’ll feel stronger about your decision and well-prepared for the event. 

Prepare not to faint

Another factor that worries a lot of dads committing to cutting the cord is fainting when handed the scissors! I’ll be giving you some tips below on how to stop yourself from fainting when cutting your baby’s umbilical cord. 

Watch videos about cutting the cord beforehand

To prepare yourself physically for the day your baby arrives, it helps to watch videos of birthing and other fathers who participate in cutting the cord. Watching the videos below will show you how to get it done successfully. 

Talk about fears and concerns with your partner and other dads

Discussing your concerns with your partner (and even talking to your child in the womb) and the midwife will also help you prepare mentally and physically for cutting the cord. Try talking to other dads, too who’ve cut the cord, and ask them to explain how it feels and what it looks like. Remember, you’re not alone in this birthing process so make sure you reach out and talk to others. 

Dad Cutting the Cord – How to Do It in the Delivery Room

Understanding what the umbilical cord is made of could help you be more prepared for cutting it. The cord is connected from the baby to the placenta in the mother’s womb. 

While there’s some debate as to when the cord should be clamped and cut, the World Health Organization stipulates waiting 1 to 3 minutes before clamping and cutting. 

Steps to Cutting the Cord

Your midwife or birthing team will guide you through the process so don’t feel you’re doing it alone! Remember also that both mom and baby won’t feel anything when you cut the cord.

  • Step 1: Wait for the midwife or doctor to check that the cord is no longer pulsing.
  • Step 2: The birthing practitioner will place two clamps onto the cord.
  • Step 3: With a piece of gauze, hold the section of the cord to be cut. The practitioner will guide your hands to the right place. 
  • Step 4: You’ll be given sterile scissors to cut through the cord. The umbilical cord will feel leathery and be tough to cut through. However, the scissors will be sharp enough for you to snip without too much pressure.
  • Step 5: If there’s some blood, use the gauze to wipe it away. The longer you wait to cut the cord, the less blood there’ll be. 
  • Step 6: Hand the scissors back to the practitioner and wait for them to prepare the baby to be handed to you or the mother. 

Watch this informative video which shows you how the umbilical cord is cut.

For all the dads out there who decide to cut the umbilical cord, watch this video showing a father doing the deed.

How to Avoid Fainting After Cutting the Cord

It’s not unusual for a dad to feel faint or even fainting directly after cutting the cord. If you think this may happen to you, be prepared. To avoid it consider doing the following:

  • Sit down as soon as you’ve cut the cord. Place your head between your knees allowing the blood to circulate around your brain. If a bed is available then lie down.
  • Have a cool cloth on hand and place it on your head if you feel faint.
  • Take deep breaths and don’t panic.
  • Keep yourself hydrated throughout the birthing process and before cutting the cord.
  • Tell the birthing practitioner you’re feeling faint so they can take over while you remove yourself from the situation. 

By educating yourself about the process, you can be prepared for what to expect. This often helps to avoid a fainting episode. Read my article about what dads should pack in their hospital bag so you’re fully prepared on the day of the birth. 

Can a Dad Cut the Cord in the Case of Delivery With a C-Section?

If your partner will be delivering your baby via a C-section, this doesn’t mean you can’t cut the cord. In most cases, unless there are complications during the surgery, the father will be allowed to cut the cord. However, always let the doctor handling the C-section know beforehand about your wishes so the birthing team is aware of those. 

It’s estimated that up to 31.9% of births in America are done via C-section delivery so this question can occupy many parents. And then goes your baby soon into a bassinet for C-section (yes there are such special ones available!).

Alternatives to Dad Cutting the Cord

If you decide you don’t want to be the person responsible for cutting the umbilical cord, there are alternatives. The mother may decide she would like to snip the cord. Alternatively, the cord will be cut by the midwife or doctor handling the birthing process. In some cases, when the father is not able to be at the birth, a birthing partner may volunteer to cut the cord.

(Short) History of Father Cutting the Cord

It’s only in recent times that fathers have started to be present at the birth of their children. In past times, it was more common to expect the father to be sitting with his buddies in the local pub while the mother was in labor. While it may differ in some cultures, on most occasions, men weren’t expected to be part of the birthing process. 

However, since the 1980s’ it’s become almost the norm to find dads in the labor room, supporting the mother during birth. 

When Did Fathers Start Cutting the Cord?

In the last 40 years, with more fathers being present during the birth of their baby, the option of cutting the cord has also been made available to them. Modern-day dads are more open to being involved in all aspects of their partner’s pregnancy from attending prenatal classes to holding the mother’s hand while she’s in labor. Snipping the cord has become one of the many roles a father plays in the birth of their child. 

Final Thoughts

Deciding whether you, as the father, should cut the cord or not is a personal choice. At no time should you feel pressured to perform this role. While most dads feel it’s a symbolic gesture of honoring the baby’s birth, it doesn’t mean you see the birth any less important if you don’t cut the cord. Every dad is different and your personal opinion around cutting the umbilical cord counts.

Should dads REALLY cut the umbilical cord is something both the mother and the father can talk about. Together, you can make the best decision that feels right for both of you as parents to your newborn baby.

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