Waiting to Cut the Umbilical Chord May Have Developmental Benefits for Newborns


The cutting of the umbilical cord is an important and symbolic part of child-birth. The cord, which connects the unborn fetus to its placenta home inside the mother, is usually disconnected as soon as the child born. However, there have been studies that show waiting a few moments to clamp the cord can increase iron levels in newborns’ blood for the first few months of life. However, a new study goes even further by suggesting waiting can also promote the child’s brain development.

The study, conducted in Sweden, looked at the development of 263 four-year old children. When the kids were born, some had their umbilical cords clamped “early” (within 10 seconds of birth) while the others had “late” (at least three minutes after birth). The researchers found that both groups of children were similarly intelligent, regardless of when their cords were clamped. They also performed similarly on behavior tests. However, researchers did find noticeable differences in both fine motor skills and problem solving.

Children who had their cords clamped later performed better on fine motor tests, including proper gripping of a pencil. They also did better on certain social skills and behavior tests. Interestingly, the main difference was among boy children, not in girls. According to the researchers, male infants tend to have higher incidences of iron deficiency and by delaying cord clamping by three minutes would allow an extra 3.5 ounces of blood to get to the baby – that’s a half-gallon to an adult. There is a lot of iron in that amount of blood, which can actually have quite an effect on the amount of iron in the body for a long time after birth.

It is hoped that this study will promote late cord clamping, something that is not common across the world just yet. Doctors used to clamp the cord as soon as possible after birth and it will take time to get the word out about delayed clamping. This is especially true in developing countries, where many pregnant women are anemic. By clamping the cord later, doctors will lessen the risk of anemia in the child – something that normally develops in the children of anemic women.

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