Delayed cord clamping could improve health of premature babies, says study

on 07 October 2019

A study, led by researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), shows that delayed cord clamping of babies born prematurely may improve health outcomes and lower the risk of death.

The study, published in the Cochrane Library, wanted to determine if delayed cord clamping (or umbilical cord milking) improved the health outcomes of babies born before 37 weeks gestation and their mothers.

The interventions were then compared against early cord clamping.

Professor of Perinatal Medicine and Honorary Consultant Neonatologist at BSMS, who led the study, Heike Rabe said: “Early clamping of the umbilical cord has been standard practice for many years. It allows the baby to be transferred quickly to care from the specialist team of doctors either at the side of the room or in another room.

“Yet, delayed cord clamping for half to three or more minutes allows continuing blood to flow between the mother and her baby, and this may help the baby to adjust to breathing air. Squeezing blood along the umbilical cord towards the baby (milking the cord) can boost the baby’s blood volume, and this may improve the baby’s health.”

Researchers collected and analysed 40 published studies, containing data on 4,884 babies and their mothers.

The data came from studies across the world, but mainly in high income countries.

“Our study found that delayed, rather than early, cord clamping may reduce the risk of death before discharge for babies born preterm. As there have only been a few studies that follow babies for health outcomes in early childhood to date and there is insufficient evidence for reliable conclusions on providing immediate care for the baby beside the mother with the cord intact, immediate neonatal care with the cord intact requires further study,” Heike Rabe added.

The study ‘Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping and other strategies to influence placental transfusion at preterm birth on maternal and infant outcomes’ can be found here.