[The study] found that delaying clamping for at least a minute after birth, which allows more time for blood to move from the placenta, significantly improves iron stores and hemoglobin levels in newborns and does not increase the risks to mothers.
Doctors usually clamp the umbilical cord in two locations, near the infant's navel and then farther along the cord, then cut it between the clamps. The timing of the procedure has been controversial for years, and the new analysis adds to a substantial body of evidence suggesting that clamping often occurs too quickly after delivery.
The new paper, published on Wednesday in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, may change minds, though perhaps not immediately. "I suspect we'll have more and more delayed cord clamping," said Dr. Jeffrey Ecker, the chair of committee on obstetrics practice for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Newborns with later clamping had higher hemoglobin levels 24 to 48 hours postpartum and were less likely to be iron-deficient three to six months after birth, compared with term babies who had early cord clamping, the analysis found. Birth weight also was significantly higher on average in the late clamping group, in part because babies received more blood from their mothers.
Delayed clamping did not increase the risk of severe postpartum hemorrhage, blood loss or reduced hemoglobin levels in mothers, the analysis found.
"It's a persuasive finding," said Dr. Ecker. "It's tough not to think that delayed cord clamping, including better iron stores and more hemoglobin, is a good thing."
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock