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Backing for delayed umbilical cord clamping

Wednesday November 16th, 2011

Delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord can protect babies from low iron levels at four months of age, researchers say today.

Iron deficiency is an important risk for young children, especially as it is linked to poor brain development. It has been suggested that delayed cord clamping may help prevent the problem.

However, Dr Ola Andersson of the Hospital of Halland in Sweden and colleagues write in the British Medical Journal that "we lack data concerning its health benefits and possible adverse effects".

They gathered figures on 400 babies born at a Swedish hospital after normal pregnancies. Half of the cords were clamped immediately and half were clamped after three minutes or more.

Haemoglobin levels were similar at four months, but the babies with delayed cord clamping had 45 per cent higher ferritin levels (the protein that stores iron) and a ten per cent lower risk of iron deficiency.

The delayed clamping group were 20 per cent less likely to be anaemic at two days of age. There were no significant differences in rates of respiratory symptoms, polycythaemia (overproduction of red blood cells), or severe jaundice.

The researchers conclude: "Delayed cord clamping, compared with early clamping, resulted in improved iron status and reduced prevalence of iron deficiency at four months of age, and reduced prevalence of neonatal anaemia, without demonstrable adverse effects.

"Delayed cord clamping should be considered as standard care for full term deliveries after uncomplicated pregnancies."

Dr Patrick van Rheenen, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, writes in the journal: "How much more evidence is needed to convince obstetricians and midwives that it is worthwhile to wait for three minutes to allow for placental transfusion, even in developed countries?"

Effect of delayed versus early umbilical cord clamping on neonatal outcomes and iron status at 4 months: a randomised controlled trial. Andersson, O. et al. The British Medical Journal, 2011;343:d7157.

Delayed cord clamping and improved infant outcomes. van Rheenen, P. The British Medical Journal, 2011;343:d7127.

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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