For decades, doctors have routinely clamped the umbilical cords of newborns moments after birth. Some parents now avoid immediate clamping in favor of allowing the umbilical cord to remain attached anywhere from a few minutes to, among more radical birth activists, several days. Some parents report experiencing pushback from doctors who want to immediately clamp the umbilical cord, citing evidence that immediate clamping reduces the mother’s risk of a hemorrhage. Research hasn’t found a connection between early clamping and a reduced risk of hemorrhaging, but a new study suggests that delayed cord clamping could offer a number of benefits. The study also refutes the notion that delayed clamping raises IQ.
Does Delayed Cord Clamping Benefit Babies?
Some previous research has found immediate benefits to delayed cord clamping, such as higher iron levels. The new study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that the benefits of delayed clamping may persist well beyond infancy.
Researchers looked at 263 healthy full-term babies, dividing them into two groups. One group underwent traditional cord clamping, with the umbilical cord clamped within 10 seconds after birth. The other group had their umbilical cords clamped after three minutes. Four years later, the researchers administered a battery of tests designed to test the children’s social skills, IQ, coordination, problem-solving, communication skills, and overall behavior. Children whose cord clamping was delayed had slightly higher scores on tests of social and fine motor skills, but there was no difference in IQ between the two groups.
When the researchers separated the groups by sex, though, they found that only boys experienced statistically significant benefits. Though they’re unsure why, the team speculates that higher estrogen levels in utero may offer more protection to girls.
The transition to life outside the womb is understandably shocking to newborns. The study’s authors suggest that delayed cord clamping may diminish the shock. Specifically, they say that allowing more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby could be why delayed cord clamping is beneficial. In some cases, newborns experience gains in blood volume of up to a third—a boost that could be especially helpful to premature babies.
Haelle, T. (2015, May 26). Delayed umbilical cord clamping may benefit children years later. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/05/26/409697568/delayed-umbilical-cord-clamping-may-benefit-children-years-later
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