Improved Health Outcomes and a Lower Risk of Anemia for Your Baby: New Timing Guidelines for Umbilical Cord Clamping
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is now recommending that we wait at least 30-60 seconds before clamping the umbilical cord after delivery. This decision is based on recent research showing that these few seconds can have a multitude of benefits for most infants, including a lower risk for anemia.
Approximately two-billion people across the globe are anemic and the leading cause is iron deficiency, even in well-nourished populations. Iron deficiency is, according to the World Health Organization, the most common nutritional disorder in the world. It is also the only nutritional deficiency that is prevalent in developed countries. Delaying cord clamping helps to deliver a portion of the newborn’s own iron-rich blood that would otherwise remain in the placenta. This may increase iron stores in infants who would otherwise require treatment with iron-rich foods and supplements.
Anemia and iron deficiency in children is associated with impaired development of the nervous system, which can influence cognitive and motor development. Delayed umbilical cord clamping has been shown to protect against anemia and iron deficiency during the first year of life. These findings are based on a study conducted in Nepal on over 500 babies chosen at random to either have the umbilical cord clamped within 32 seconds of birth or delayed at least three minutes. A follow up on the study participants at eight months of age revealed that those in the delayed cord clamping group were 11 percent less likely to be anemic and 42 percent less likely to have an iron deficiency. The prevalence of anemia was again evaluated after one year and the babies who received late cord clamping again had lower cases of anemia than those who underwent early clamping.
Earlier research also indicates that both preterm and term infants experience improved developmental outcomes with delayed cord clamping procedures, up to four years of age. Preterm infants show improved circulation and higher red blood cells counts. They are also less likely to require blood transfusions and at a reduced risk for hemorrhage and intestinal disease. Term infants have higher hemoglobin levels at birth and increased iron stores for several months.
Traditionally, immediate umbilical cord clamping was carried out in effort to reduce postpartum hemorrhage. Immediate clamping after birth is still necessary under specific circumstances such as during the incidence of postpartum hemorrhage, but there is no evidence that delayed cord clamping itself contributes to risk of postpartum hemorrhage or increased bleeding at delivery.
With widespread implementation of the practice, delaying umbilical cord clamping can result in five-million fewer anemic infants annually.
You can find the ACOG press release here. For more information check out the Committee Opinion in the January 2017 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology “Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping After Birth”. Stay tuned for the most up to date recommendations to keep you and your baby healthy, and don’t hesitate to speak to us if you have any questions!
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