Waiting 30 to 60 seconds before clamping the umbilical cord after the birth of the baby instead of doing so right after the birth happened can save thousands of pre-term babies’ lives, according to international studies coordinated by the University of Sydney’s National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Centre.
The review, which was led by University of Sydney researchers and which will be published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shows evidence that delayed clamping decreased infant mortality rates by a third. This is hypothesized to be due to the delayed need for subsequent blood transfusions and increased neonatal hematocrit (the volume percentage of red blood cells in blood), validating that placental transfusion happened.
The researchers observed 3,000 babies who were born before 37 weeks of the gestation period and concluded that delayed cord clamping could save the lives of one-third of the premature babies. They also say that the practice is safe for both the mother and the infant.
“The review shows for the first time that simply clamping the cord 60 seconds after birth improves survival. It confirms international guidelines recommending delayed clamping in all pre-term babies who do not need resuscitation,” said University of Sydney professor William Tarnow-Mordi, who was the senior author of the study.
For his part, University of Sydney associate professor David Osborn, the review’s lead author and a neonatal specialist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said: “We estimate that for every thousand pre-term babies born more than 10 weeks early, delayed clamping will save up to 100 additional lives compared with immediate clamping. This means that, worldwide, using delayed clamping instead of immediate clamping can be expected to save between 11,000 and 100,000 additional lives every year.” (Related: Waiting two minutes before cutting umbilical cord improves early newborn development.)
The review validates the results of the Australian Placental Transfusion Study which was published during the last week of October in the New England Journal of Medicine, which reported that delayed clamping can reduce mortality before 36 weeks.
According to Professor Roger Soll of the University of Vermont College of Medicine, who was co-author of the Australian Placental Transfusion Study, “About 15 million babies are born before 37 weeks gestation annually and one million die. This procedure costs nothing and will make a difference to families worldwide.”
For her part, University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson said: “This is a cause which is very important to me, with my own granddaughter born at 28 weeks. She is now a vibrant three-year-old but I know many others don’t have such a great outcome which is why research in this area is so vital.”
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