According to a study published on today, iron levels in healthy newborn babies are improved at four months by waiting for at least three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord.

Researchers of the investigation state that delaying cord clamping should be standard care following uncomplicated pregnancies and that it is not associated with neonatal jaundice or other health side effects.

Iron deficiency anaemia and iron deficiency are linked with poor neurodevelopment, and are major public health problems in young children worldwide. Young children are particularly at risk as they require high iron levels during rapid growth.

Although prior investigations revealed that delayed cord clamping may prevent iron deficiency, results regarding the risk of neonatal jaundice and other adverse health effects are conflicting.

A team of researchers led by Ola Andersson, consultant in neonatology at the Hospital of Halland in Sweden, and Magnus Domellöf, associate professor of paediatrics at Umeå University, conducted a study in order to examine the effects of delayed cord clamping vs. early clamping, on the iron levels of four month old babies in a county hospital in Sweden.

In the study 400 full term infants after low-risk pregnancies were examined by the researchers. Some infants had their umbilical cords clamped within less than 10 second seconds after delivery, while others had them clamped after at least 3 minutes.

Results from the study reveal that infants at four months of age who experienced delayed clamping had better iron levels and there were less cases of neonatal anemia.

According to estimates by the team one case of iron deficiency would be present for every 20 infants who experienced delayed clamping, regardless of if the infant also had anaemia. In addition, they found that delayed cord clamping was not connected with any health side effects.

The researchers explain that delayed cord clamping “should be considered as standard care for full term deliveries after uncomplicated pregnancies.”

In an associated report, Dr Patrick van Rheenen, consultant pediatrician at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, explains that there is sufficient evidence to back delayed cord clamping.

“The balance of maternal risks and infant benefits of delayed cord clamping now clearly favors the child. How much more evidence is needed to convince obstetricians and midwives that it is worthwhile to wait for three minutes to allow for placental transfusion, even in developed countries?”

Written by Grace Rattue