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Cutting Umbilical Cord Later has Benefits for Infants, Study Suggests

Update Date: Jul 12, 2013 10:03 AM EDT

The role of the umbilical cord, which connects the mother to her child in the womb, is to provide a source of nutrients directly to the unborn baby. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is severed immediately as a step in the standard procedure of birthing. Several studies have suggested that leaving the cord uncut for a bit longer could provide numerous health benefits. Mothers who practice lotus births keep the umbilical cords on until they naturally fall off, which is around seven to 10 days long. Proponents for lotus births believe that infants still connected after birth can reap benefits from the umbilical cord. In a new study, researchers found more evidence that allowing the cord to remain intact a bit longer could provide benefits for the infant.

In this study, researchers reviewed data already compiled by 15 earlier studies. The total sample set was composed of around 4,000 women and infant pairs. The researchers knew that doctors tend to cut the cord within the first minute after birth. Cutting the cord this early is supposed to lower the risk of severe bleeding for the mothers. However, in this analysis, researchers found that waiting that one-minute after birth before cutting could increase the health benefits for the newborns without posing extra risks for the mothers. Researchers found that waiting one minute allowed the blood from the placenta to move to the baby, which increased the baby's iron and hemoglobin levels.

"In terms of a healthy start for a baby, one thing we can do by delaying cord clamping is boost their iron stores for a bit longer," the lead author of the review, Susan McDonald said according to WedMD. McDonald is a professor of midwifery at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

The researchers also found that the babies who had delayed clamping had significantly higher levels of hemoglobin even after 24 to 48 hours. The babies who had delayed clamping were also less likely to be iron deficient three to six months post birth.

"I suspect we'll have more and more delayed cord clamping." Dr. Jeffrey Ecker said according to the New York Times. Ecker is the chair of committee on obstetrics practice for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "It's a persuasive finding. It's tough not to think that delayed cord clamping, including better iron stores and more hemoglobin, is a good think.

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends cord clamping anywhere from one to three minutes after birth. WHO states that clamping after that set time could increase the risk of jaundice for infants. Despite this warning, several studies have found evidence that support late clamping.

The study was published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

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