The age-old practice of cutting the baby's umbilical cord right after birth is so dated—two new international studies have imposed a waiting time on delaying cord clamping, and it varies from 30 seconds to a minute and even after three or five minutes.
The first study coordinated by the University of Sydney's National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Centre looked into nearly 3,000 babies born before the 37th week of gestation. It showed clear evidence that delayed cord clamping by 60 seconds is, first and foremost, safe for both mom and baby, and that waiting a whole minute to clamp the umbilical cord dramatically reduced by a third the number of premature infant deaths in hospitals.
"The review shows for the first time that simply clamping the cord 60 seconds after birth improves survival," University of Sydney's professor William Tarnow-Mordi, senior author of the study which will soon be published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said in a statement. The study also affirmed guidelines to delay cord clamping for all babies, even for preemies who do not need immediate resuscitation. Doctors can spare a minute that can help increase their chances of survival.
David Osborn, University of Sydney's associate professor and lead author of the study estimated that for every one thousand preterm babies born more than ten weeks early, delayed cord clamping would save up to 100 more lives. "This means that, worldwide, using delayed clamping instead of immediate clamping can be expected to save between 11,000 and 100,000 additional lives every year," he stressed.
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Previous studies showed that both full-term and pre-term babies benefit from blood from the placenta and the umbilical cord, as this has been proven to offer essential nutrients and antibodies crucial to the baby's health during the first weeks of life. Delaying cord clamping also helps moms lower their risk of postpartum hemorrhaging after birth. (Click here to read more about the benefits of delayed cord clamping.)
Of about 15 million babies yearly who are born before 37 weeks of gestation, nearly a million don't make it. "This is so significant as it is such a simple technique, suitable for almost all preterm babies that helps save lives," said University of Sydney's Professor Jonathan Morris, co-author of the Australian Placental Transfusion Study, the second international study that had similar recommendations for delayed cord clamping.
The researchers looked at data from 1,566 babies born over ten weeks early in 25 hospitals in seven countries. It showed 6.4 percent death rate in the delayed clamping group compared to nine percent in the immediate clamping group. Professor Roger Soll of the University of Vermont College of Medicine and Co-author of the Australian Placental Transfusion Study, added: "This procedure costs nothing and will make a difference to families worldwide."
The Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) states in the Unang Yakap campaign protocols that doctors and midwives should wait at least a minute before cutting the baby's cord. Discuss this with your doctor and make sure you note it on your birth plan.