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Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping May Benefit Children Years Later

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 27, 2015 @ 12:22 PM

TARA HAELLE

www.npr.org 

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A couple of extra minutes attached to the umbilical cord at birth may translate into a small boost in neurodevelopment several years later, a study suggests.

Children whose cords were cut more than three minutes after birth had slightly higher social skills and fine motor skills than those whose cords were cut within 10 seconds. The results showed no differences in IQ.

"There is growing evidence from a number of studies that all infants, those born at term and those born early, benefit from receiving extra blood from the placenta at birth," said Dr. Heike Rabe, a neonatologist at Brighton & Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom. Rabe's editorial accompanied the study published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Delaying the clamping of the cord allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the infant, sometimes increasing the infant's blood volume by up to a third. The iron in the blood increases infants' iron storage, and iron is essential for healthy brain development.

"The extra blood at birth helps the baby to cope better with the transition from life in the womb, where everything is provided for them by the placenta and the mother, to the outside world," Rabe said. "Their lungs get more blood so that the exchange of oxygen into the blood can take place smoothly."

Past studies have shown higher levels of iron and other positive effects later in infancy among babies whose cords were clamped after several minutes, but few studies have looked at results past infancy.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned half of 263 healthy Swedish full-term newborns to have their cords clamped more than three minutes after birth. The other half were clamped less than 10 seconds after birth.

Four years later, the children underwent a series of assessments for IQ, motor skills, social skills, problem-solving, communication skills and behavior. Those with delayed cord clamping showed modestly higher scores in social skills and fine motor skills. When separated by sex, only the boys showed statistically significant improvement.

"We don't know exactly why, but speculate that girls receive extra protection through higher estrogen levels whilst being in the womb," Rabe said. "The results in term infants are consistent with those of follow-up in preterm infants."

Delayed cord clamping has garnered more attention in the past few years for its potential benefits to the newborn. Until recently, clinicians believed early clamping reduced the risk of hemorrhaging in the mother, but research hasn't borne that out.

Much of the research has focused on preterm infants, who appear to benefit most from delayed cord clamping, Rabe said. Preemies who have delayed cord clamping tend to have better blood pressure in the days immediately after birth, need fewer drugs to support blood pressure, need fewer blood transfusions, have less bleeding into the brain and have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening bowel injury, she said.

This study is among the few looking at healthy, full-term infants in a country high in resources, as opposed to developing countries where iron deficiency may be more likely.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not yet endorsed the practice, citing insufficient evidence for full-term infants. The World Health Organization recommends delayed cord clamping of not less than one minute.

It is unclear whether the practice could harm infants' health. Some studies have found a higher risk of jaundice, a buildup of bilirubin in the blood from the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice is treated with blue light therapy and rarely has serious complications.

Another potential risk is a condition called polycythemia, a very high red blood cell count, said Dr. Scott Lorch, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and director of the Center for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Disparities Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Polycythemia can have medical consequences for the infant, including blood clots, respiratory distress and even strokes in the worst-case scenario," Lorch said. Some studies have found higher levels of red blood cells in babies with delayed cord clamping, but there were no complications.

Lorch also pointed out that this study involved a mostly homogenous population in a country outside the U.S.

"We should see whether similar effects are seen in higher-risk populations, such as the low socioeconomic population, racial and ethnic minorities and those at higher risk for neurodevelopmental delay," Lorch said.

So far, studies on delayed cord clamping have excluded infants born in distress, such as those with breathing difficulties or other problems. But Rabe said these infants may actually benefit most from the practice.

These babies often need more blood volume to help with blood pressure, breathing and circulation problems, Rabe said. "Also, the placental blood is rich with stem cells, which could help to repair any brain damage the baby might have suffered during a difficult birth," she added. "Milking of the cord would be the easiest way to get the extra blood into the baby quickly in an emergency situation."

Topics: WHO, birth, newborn, childhood, health, nurses, doctors, hospital, patient, umbilical cord, children's health, childbirth, cognitive development

Preemies May Have Higher Risk of Blood Clots, Even as Adults

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jul 28, 2014 @ 12:56 PM

By: Healthday

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Odds are small, but family, doctors should keep possibility in mind, researchers say.

Babies born prematurely appear to have a slightly increased risk of potentially fatal blood clots that they will carry into adulthood, Swedish researchers report.

Doctors have previously suspected that babies born earlier than 37 weeks' gestation have a raised risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, two serious conditions caused by blood clotting in the veins, the researchers noted in background information.

This new study confirms that link, and takes it even further. Premature birth appears to be linked to an increased chance of blood clots in the veins in childhood and early adulthood, according to findings published online July 28 in the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers also reported that a baby's chances of blood clot-related illnesses are directly related to the degree of prematurity. "The more premature, the higher the risk," said Dr. Edward McCabe, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes. A full-term pregnancy lasts from 39 to 40 weeks.

While parents and doctors should keep this risk in mind, they should also be aware that the risk is not huge, said Dr. Kristi Watterberg, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on the fetus and newborn. Watterberg and McCabe were not involved with the study.

The association between premature birth and clot risk seen in the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The study involved 3.5 million babies born in Sweden between 1973 and 2008, including almost 207,000 born preterm. Out of all the births, only about 7,500 children -- 0.2 percent -- suffered either deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism later in life.

"I think it's important scientifically to know, but it's such a low incidence phenomenon that there are a lot of things to think about before that," said Watterberg, a professor of pediatrics and neonatology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Deep vein thrombosis involves blood clots that form in a vein deep in the body. If these clots aren't treated and dissolved, they can break off and travel through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called a pulmonary embolism. Such a blockage can be deadly.

For the study, Dr. Bengt Zoller, of the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University in Malmo, Sweden, and colleagues used records from the Swedish Birth Registry to track the babies' health. The researchers found that premature babies had an increased risk of blood clots in their veins in infancy, but also from ages 1 to 5 and from 18 to 38.

Very preterm births -- before 34 weeks of gestation -- also had a risk of blood clot-related illness in adolescence, from age 13 to 17.

Boys had an increased risk of blood clots in infancy, while girls were more likely to carry the risk into adolescence and adulthood, the study authors reported.

No one knows why this increased risk exists, but it could be due to genetic factors that caused the mother to deliver prematurely in the first place, Watterberg and McCabe said.

Diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems and obesity are genetic in nature and can cause preterm delivery, McCabe said.

Also, some mothers who suffer a genetic deficiency in a key protein that controls blood clotting may be predisposed to give birth prematurely, Watterberg said.

"It may be that maternal genetics are a setup for preterm delivery, and those problems are passed along to the infant," she said.

The mother's wellness and lifestyle also play a role in a baby's lifelong health, and could influence their risk of blood clots, McCabe said.

Finally, this link might arise because the babies are born prematurely, and are robbed of maternal hormones and nutrition in the womb that could have decreased their future risk of blood clots.

"We are not as good at getting nutrition into those babies as the mother and placenta are, and we do know that hormones have something to do with the predisposition to clotting," Watterberg said. "It makes sense to me you'd have changes in those long-term outcomes as well."

In any case, it is something for the family and doctor of a person born prematurely to keep in mind, McCabe said.

"If a patient has a history of preterm birth, and the more preterm, the more attention it needs to have," he said. "It helps us be better prepared. If a patient comes in with unusual findings, this provides us some clue."

Source: http://healthfinder.gov

Topics: patient, researchers, Preemies, blood clots, premature birth, childhood, adulthood

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