Hold the Clamp: Newborns Benefit from Delayed Cord Cutting
New research shows that a brief delay in cutting the umbilical cord after birth benefits newborns. In most developed countries, it’s standard practice to clamp and cut the umbilical cord almost immediately after delivery. Most health care providers make the cut within 60 seconds.
Australian researchers examined data from 15 clinical trials involving more than 3,900 women and their infants to determine if the timing of cord cutting affects the infant’s health, or that of the mother. Mothers were not affected, but late cord cutting was associated with higher levels of hemoglobin in infants at one and two days of birth. Hemoglobin is the protein that allows red cells to do their important work, carrying oxygen from the lungs to cells throughout the body, then helping remove waste carbon dioxide.
Although the difference in hemoglobin levels disappeared after two days, a difference in iron stores persisted much longer. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin. The findings suggest that a simple delay in cutting the umbilical cord, of just a few minutes, could give babies an edge. Put another way: “...infants in the early cord clamping [group were] over twice as likely to be iron deficient at three to six months compared with infants whose cord clamping was delayed,” wrote the investigators. The findings suggest that if you’re pregnant it might be worth discussing the issue with your doctor. Your baby just might benefit from a slight delay in cord cutting.
McDonald SJ, Middleton P, Dowswell T, Morris PS. Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping of term infants on maternal and neonatal outcomes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jul 11;7:CD004074. [Epub ahead of print]