Delayed umbilical cord clamping boosts iron in infants

Just a two-minute delay in clamping a baby's umbilical cord can boost the child's iron reserves and prevent anemia for months, report nutritionists at the University of California, Davis.

Iron deficiency is a concern for both wealthy and poor nations. It is a problem particularly in developing countries, where half of all children become anemic during their first year, putting them at risk of serious developmental problems that may not be reversible, even with iron treatments.

Results of the study, conducted by UC Davis nutrition professor Kathryn Dewey and nutrition graduate student Camila Chaparro at a large obstetrical hospital in Mexico City, will be published June 17 in the British medical journal The Lancet.

"By simply delaying cord clamping for this brief time, we can provide the infant with the extra blood, and the iron it contains, from the placenta," said Dewey, an expert in maternal and infant nutrition. "This is an efficient, low-cost way to intervene at birth without harm to the infant or the mother."

She noted that although iron deficiency is a greater problem in developing countries, it is also a serious issue in industrialized nations like the United States, particularly for low-income and minority families and in lower birth-weight infants or babies born to iron-deficient mothers.

The umbilical-cord clamping procedure halts blood flow from the placenta to the infant in preparation for cutting the umbilical cord. During the past century, it became common practice to clamp the cord about 10 seconds after the baby's shoulders are delivered. However, there has been little scientific research to justify such rapid clamping.

The previous studies conducted on delaying clamping have indicated no risk and some significant benefits to later clamping.

In the UC Davis study, the researchers set out to specifically evaluate whether delayed clamping improves iron status of full-term, normal-birth-weight infa

Contact: Pat Bailey
University of California - Davis

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