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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

Delayed cord clamping results in better immediate newborn outcomes

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 11:35 AM

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At birth, a newborn baby is still attached to its mother through the umbilical cord, which is either cut very early - within the first 60 seconds - or later, with some women opting to wait until after the cord has stopped pulsating. Though the right timing for cutting the cord - also referred to as clamping - is widely debated, a new study suggests delaying cord clamping by 2 minutes results in better development for the newborn during the first days of life.

What do you think about it? Do you think the 2 minutes makes a difference? Perhaps you can share a personal and/or professional experience about this.

The research, carried out by scientists from the University of Granada and the San Cecilio Clinical Hospital in Spain, is published in the journal Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the reason that cord clamping timing is so controversial is that a previous series of studies into blood volume changes after birth concluded that in healthy term infants, more than 90% of blood volume was attained within the first few breaths he or she took after birth.

As a result of these findings, as well as a lack of other recommendations regarding optimal timing, the amount of time between birth and umbilical cord clamping was widely shortened; in most cases, cord clamping occurs within 15-20 seconds after birth.

However, before these studies, in the mid-1950s, cord clamping within 1 minute of birth was defined as "early clamping," and "late clamping" was defined as more than 5 minutes after birth. And the ACOG have stated that "the ideal timing for umbilical cord clamping has yet to be established."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocate for late cord clamping (between 1-3 minutes after birth), as it "allows blood flow between the placenta and neonate to continue, which may improve iron status in the infant for up to 6 months after birth."

Waiting 2 minutes increased antioxidant capacity

To provide further evidence in the debate of early versus late cord clamping, the researchers from this latest study, led by Prof. Julio José Ochoa Herrera of the University of Granada, assessed newborn outcomes for infants born to 64 healthy pregnant women to determine the impact of clamping timing on oxidative stress and the inflammatory signal produced during delivery.

All of these women had a normal pregnancy and spontaneous vaginal delivery. However, half of the women's newborns had their umbilical cord cut 10 seconds after delivery and half had it cut after 2 minutes.

Results revealed beneficial effects of late cord clamping; there was an increase in antioxidant capacity and moderation of inflammatory effects in the newborns.

Commenting further, Prof. Ochoa says:


"Our study demonstrates that late clamping of the umbilical cord has a beneficial effect upon the antioxidant capacity and reduces the inflammatory signal induced during labor, which could improve the development of the newborn during his or her first days of life."

He adds that umbilical cord clamping is one of the most frequent surgical interventions practiced in humans, with proof of the practice dating back centuries. 

Early clamping 'not advised unless newborn needs resuscitation'

With evidence of benefits for delayed cord clamping, however, why are most newborns separated from the placenta within 15-20 seconds after birth? According to the ACOG, there are concerns over universally adopting delayed clamping because it could "jeopardize timely resuscitation efforts, if needed, especially in preterm infants."

"However," the organization states, "because the placenta continues to perform gas exchange after delivery, sick and preterm infants are likely to benefit most from additional blood volume derived from a delay in umbilical cord clamping."

There are also other concerns regarding delayed cord clamping, including an increased potential for "excessive placental transfusion, which can lead to neonatal polycythemia" - an abnormally high level of red blood cells. This is especially of concern in the presence of risk factors including maternal diabetes, intrauterine grown restriction and high altitude.

Another concern stated by the ACOG is that delayed umbilical cord clamping "may be technically difficult in some circumstances."

Still, the WHO say late cord clamping is recommended for all births, and the improved iron status associated with it "may be particularly relevant for infants living in low-resource settings with reduced access to iron-rich foods."

The organization clearly states that early cord clamping - less than 1 minute after birth - is not advised unless the newborn is asphyxiated and needs to be moved for resuscitation.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: health, nurses, healthcare, newborns, hospitals, medicine, physicians, babies, studies, birth, WHO, cord clamping, umbilical cord, AAP

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