Delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord after birth by several minutes could bring future health benefits to newborns, according to new research.
Scientists looked at a series of trials that have tested the benefits and risks of cord clamping and found that delaying clamping led to statistically significant benefits for babies - reducing the risk of many illnesses, including, anaemia, chronic lung disease, brain haemorrhages, sepsis, and eye disease in later life. These results applied to both preterm and term babies, with no difference between vaginal or caesarean births.
'Several clinical studies have shown that delaying clamping the umbilical cord not only allows more blood to be transferred but helps prevent anaemia as well, reported lead researcher Professor Paul Sanberg of the University of South Florida.
'Cord blood contains many valuable stem cells, making this transfer of stem cells a process that might be considered the original stem cell transplant. The virtue of the unique and immature features of cord blood, including their ability to differentiate, are well known.'
Early cord clamping remains the most common practice among obstetricians and midwives in the western hemisphere. This is defined as being immediately to less than one minute after birth. Current procedures were first put in place over 50 years ago, where the therapeutic value of cord blood and its stem cells were still unclear, Sandberg explains.
Delayed cord clamping is generally greater than one minute to until the cord stops pulsating. In some cultures the cord is allowed to dry, wither and fall off naturally which can take up to three days.
The research was published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.