Doctors and midwives should hold off on clamping an umbilical cord for at least 30 seconds after a premature birth, according to research published by The Lancet medical journal.
Waiting could be the difference between life and death, according to University of Sydney in Australia, University of Nottingham in Britain, and UK National Childbirth Trust researchers.
Their analysis of dozens of studies and clinical trials covering over 9,000 infants found that a delay of between half a minute and two minutes cuts the risk of the baby dying by a third.
The team claimed they had gathered “high-certainty evidence that deferred cord clamping, compared with immediate cord clamping, reduces death before discharge in preterm infants”.
“Deferring clamping of the umbilical cord allows blood to flow from the placenta to the baby whilst the baby’s lungs fill with air and is thought to potentially ease the transition into breathing and to potentially reduce the risk of iron deficiency in the infant,” they explained.
“Our findings highlight that particular care should be taken to keep premature babies warm when deferring umbilical cord clamping,” said Prof Dr Lisa Askie of the University of Sydney.
She and her colleagues at the same time warned that the findings “might not be generalisable in low-income settings and to babies requiring immediate resuscitation”, and called for more research into the matter.
While a wait of up to two minutes is standard for full-term babies, practices vary for premature births, for which there is no consensus about when clamping should be done. – dpa