Deciding when to cut a newborn’s umbilical cord has been a question plaguing medical professionals (and sometimes parents) for years. New research indicates that delaying clamping for one minute can save thousands of babies born prematurely each year
At stake, when it comes to timing, is determining at what point nutrients delivered from the cord, in a process known as placental transfusion, become harmful to the mother or baby. Some have thought that it could lead to internal bleeding in moms, and there is an increased risk of jaundice.
To zero-in on that balance, researchers in Sydney, Australia, reviewed almost 3,000 cases of babies born prematurely before 37 weeks, according to a release. They looked at mortality and morbidity for babies whose umbilical cords were clamped early versus late, and found that delaying it reduced death rates by one-third. Additionally, delayed clamping also led to fewer blood transfusions and an increase in red blood cells.
According to the researchers, this is the first review to show that waiting to clamp can actually improve survival for the baby, in addition being safe for moms too.
“We estimate that for every thousand very preterm babies born more than 10 weeks early, delayed clamping will save up to 100 additional lives compared with immediate clamping,” said study co-author David Osborn, neonatal specialist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney, in a statement.
Overall, he said this could save anywhere from 11,000 to 100,000 lives per year.