Delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord is regarded in many medical circles as beneficial for babies at the moment of their birth, but the method generally advised for maximizing the benefit--holding the baby at the level of the mother's vagina for more than a minute so gravity can help blood flow from the placenta into the baby's system--awkward and unappealing. But a new study has found that placing the baby on the mother's stomach after birth may have the same benefits, as The New York Times reports:
Babies who were placed on their mothers' stomachs before clamping fared just as well as those who were held lower, the researchers found.
"They found no difference whether the baby was at abdomen level or on the chest, or the baby was held at the vagina," said Dr. Tonse Raju, the chief of the pregnancy and perinatology branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, who wrote a comment accompanying the study. "It made no difference in terms of extra blood the baby got."
The authors hope their finding will convince doctors reluctant to delay cord clamping to start the practice.
"A mother would prefer to have the baby on top of her," Dr. Néstor Vain, the lead author and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. "And that doesn't change the amount of placental transfusion, and facilitates the procedure for the obstetrician."
The study assigned 194 healthy full-term babies to be placed on their mother's abdomen or chest for two minutes and 197 babies to be held at the level of the vagina for two minutes. All of the newborns were still attached to umbilical cords, and weighed before and after the allotted time.
The group placed on their mothers' abdomens gained 53 grams of blood, while the babies held lower gained 56 grams.
Delayed clamping of the cord remains underused despite mounting evidence that it helps reduce iron deficiency in babies and poses no added risk of maternal blood loss.
Image: Clamped umbilical cord on newborn baby, via Shutterstock