Cord Clamping, Delayed, and Iron Deficiency
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
When obstetricians and midwives wait for at least three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord in healthy newborns, babies’ iron levels are at better at four months of age, according to recent research published online in the British Medical Journal. In healthy newborns, this small delay in cord clamping isn’t linked to neonatal jaundice or other complications, and many experts believe it should be the standard care following uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries.
Iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are currently major public health problems affecting children around the world. Both are associated with poor development of the brain and nervous system. Young children are at a higher risk for iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia because of their relatively high iron requirements during periods of rapid growth.
While older research demonstrated that delayed cord clamping could prevent iron deficiency, some experts feared that the practice might increase the risk of neonatal jaundice and other health problems.
For this study, Swedish doctors followed 400 full term infants born after low risk pregnancies. After delivery, some of the babies had their umbilical cords clamped after a delay of at least three minutes, while others had their cords clamped within ten seconds of delivery. The results revealed that the babies who experienced delayed clamping had better iron levels at four months of age and there were fewer cases of neonatal anemia compared to the babies who experienced rapid cord clamping.
The researchers estimated that for every 20 babies having delayed clamping, one case of iron deficiency would be prevented, and that delayed cord clamping was not associated with any adverse health effects. The scientists concluded that delayed cord clamping should be considered as standard care for babies with full term deliveries after uncomplicated pregnancies.
If you’re planning to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood, delaying cord clamping won’t affect the amount or quality of cord blood that your doctor or midwife collects after your baby’s birth. Cord blood is collected from placental side of the umbilical cord, and even after a three minute delay in clamping, there’s still a rich supply of cord blood available for collection. If this blood isn’t collected and saved at delivery, it’s routinely discarded as medical waste. Banking your newborn’s stem cells ensures that your family has access to a valuable medical resource that could be used to treat more than 70 diseases, including certain cancers.
Moms to be, make sure to ask your doctor or midwife about delayed umbilical cord clamping—and cord blood banking—well in advance of your due date.
Ola Andersson, Lena Hellström-Westas, Dan Andersson, Magnus Domellöf. Effect of delayed versus early umbilical cord clamping on neonatal outcomes and iron status at 4 months: a randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 2011; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d7157
Patrick van Rheenen. Delayed cord clamping and improved infant outcomes. BMJ, 2011; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.d7127