Hold Off On Cutting That Cord
Don’t rush to cut the cord! I’m not talking about your phone service. Plenty of people are going wireless. No, I’m referring to your baby’s umbilical cord. Recent and emerging evidence strongly suggests that we’ve been doing it all wrong, for a long time now. Typically, when a baby is delivered, the umbilical cord is tied off and immediately snipped, within seconds of vaginal delivery.
But last year, Swedish researchers published a study that showed that a brief delay in the simple action of cutting the cord could improve baby’s longterm health, by delivering much-needed iron and additional blood from the placenta. Although the amount is relatively small, it’s equivalent to about two liters for an adult, which is quite substantial. That earlier study showed that waiting just three minutes, rather than cutting the cord within 10 seconds, gave otherwise healthy newborns a distinct advantage. They were significantly less likely to suffer from iron deficiency at four months of age, compared to babies whose cords had been cut immediately.
The iron deprivation that results from immediate cord cutting makes a substantial difference in poorer countries, where every bit of additional iron can mean the difference between thriving and surviving. Now, investigators have published a follow-up study, based on new information gathered from 69% of babies that participated in the initial study. While the study did not reveal any significant cognitive or overall developmental differences between the two groups, children who had delayed cord cutting had better fine motor skills at four years of age than children whose cords were cut immediately.
Boys benefitted the most from delayed cord cutting. “Right from birth, girls generally have better iron stores, so boys have an elevated risk of iron deficiency,” said Dr. Ola Andersson, in a press release. “We hope our study will result in new recommendations around the world.”
Ola Andersson, Barbro Lindquist, Magnus Lindgren, Karin Stjernqvist, Magnus Domellöf, Lena Hellström-Westas. Effect of Delayed Cord Clamping on Neurodevelopment at 4 Years of Age. JAMA Pediatrics, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.0358