Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping May Save Premature Babies’ Lives
In a groundbreaking shift for neonatal care, two comprehensive reviews have presented compelling evidence that the timing of umbilical cord clamping can have life-saving implications for premature babies. The studies, published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, suggest that waiting 30 seconds to two minutes after birth to clamp the umbilical cord can notably decrease the likelihood of death in premature infants before hospital discharge.
These findings are hailed as the most robust evidence yet to support delayed cord clamping in premature births, with Dr. Anna Lene Seidler from the University of Sydney leading the research team.
The analyses cumulatively assessed the health outcomes of nearly 3,300 preterm infants and revealed that those who had delayed cord clamping had a 32% lower risk of mortality compared to those who had immediate clamping. Furthermore, waiting at least two minutes before clamping was associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of death.
Increased blood flow from the placenta is the key
Globally, nearly 13 million babies are born preterm each year, with approximately one million succumbing shortly after birth. This new evidence positions delayed cord clamping as a potential life-saving intervention, offering these vulnerable newborns a better chance at survival. The extended time allows for increased blood flow from the placenta, which is crucial for the baby’s organ development and can reduce the risk of iron deficiency.
The researchers note that while immediate cord clamping had been standard to facilitate drying, wrapping, and, if necessary, resuscitation of premature babies, the new data indicates a paradigm shift is necessary. They advocate for integrating these findings into international clinical practice guidelines and recommend that medical professionals undergo appropriate training to implement this practice safely.
It is currently advised that full-term babies have their cords clamped after a minute or two post-birth. However, there has been uncertainty regarding the benefits of delayed clamping for preterm babies, leading to inconsistent recommendations. These latest studies aim to resolve these discrepancies and offer a unified, evidence-backed guideline for neonatal care.
Dr. Seidler emphasizes the need for further research, particularly for the sickest preemies requiring immediate resuscitation, but remains optimistic about the integration of these practices in clinical settings. The research team is actively collaborating with international guideline developers to ensure that the findings are reflected in updated guidelines and that premature babies receive the best care possible.