Recent information indicates that delaying the time in which a newborn’s umbilical cord is cut can have a profound effect on the baby’s ultimate health. A new baby entering into the world is one of the most exciting times for a family, and every parent wants to insure that their newborn is as healthy as possible. While the first few months of life are a precious time for new parents, they must be remain aware that this is a period of great transition and vulnerability for a new infant. Anemia, due to iron deficiency, resulting from a lack of red blood cells, transfused naturally from the placenta, can decrease oxygen delivery and cause a variety of health problems for the infant. Thankfully, recent studies show that something as simple as cutting baby’s umbilical cord a couple of minutes later may offer a host of health benefits for the newborn.
A study recently (published by the Cochrane Library) shows that the practice of cutting the umbilical cord 1 to 3 minutes after birth, also known as “Late cord clamping”, promoted increased storage of iron in the baby’s body. Conversely, those babies with “Early cord clamping”, were almost 3 times more likely to suffer from iron deficiency and anemia at ages 3 to 6 months as well as being smaller in terms of weight. More iron in a baby’s body is usually good for their health since we know that low iron stores puts a baby at risk for many serious health problems such as pneumonia and cognitive delays. Often in the past, umbilical cords were cut shortly after birth, less than one minute after delivery. This early cord clamping is widely practiced across the United States and other high income countries, but babies who had this procedure done had much lower iron stores within 24 to 48 hours than babies who had late cord clamping.. Late cord clamping babies also had a much higher body weight. Unfortunately, the same mechanism that decreases iron deficiency also can cause jaundice in infants, increasing the need for phototherapy, also known as “bililight” treatments. In summary, at this stage in research, it seems that late cord clamping involves a trade-off involving decreasing the risk of iron deficiency but slightly increasing incidence of newborn jaundice.
We will have to wait and see how research progresses, but it seems like simply delaying the moment the umbilical cord is clamped, may hold great benefit for newborns, giving them far more of the life sustaining nutrients and cells that blood offers. Jaundice of the newborn is an issue that may complicate the subject however. Let your doctor know if you want to consider late cord clamping and weigh the pros and cons to figure out which method is best for your baby. Delaying cord clamping by even a couple of minutes can offer a multitude of benefits for your new child and is definitely worth considering.
Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen MD