Babies whose umbilical cord is left intact for longer after birth have healthier blood and iron levels, say the researchers behind a new review in The Cochrane Library.
The researchers reviewed data from 15 trials involving a total of nearly 4,000 women and their babies. They looked at outcomes for mothers and outcomes for babies separately, and looked at hemoglobin concentrations as an indicator of healthy blood and iron levels.
They found that while clamping the cord later made no difference to the risk of maternal hemorrhaging, blood loss or hemoglobin levels, babies were healthier in a number of respects. When cord clamping was delayed, babies had higher hemoglobin levels between one and two days after birth and were less likely to be iron-deficient three to six months after birth. Birth weight was also higher with delayed cord clamping.
"In light of growing evidence that delayed cord clamping increases early hemoglobin concentrations and iron stores in infants, a more liberal approach to delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in healthy babies appears to be warranted," said Philippa Middleton, one of the authors of the review based at the University of Adelaide (Australia).
However, the review did find that clamping the cord later did lead to a slightly higher number of babies needing treatment for jaundice. "The benefits of delayed cord clamping need to be weighed against the small additional risk of jaundice in newborns," said Middleton. "Later cord clamping to increase iron stores might be particularly beneficial in settings where severe anemia is common."
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Source: The Cochrane Library