A new study conducted by Spanish researchers and published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics has revealed that late clamping of the umbilical cord leads to increased anti-oxidant capacity of mature newborns, and the moderation of inflammatory effects in the case of those born from induced labor. In other words, it leads to a better development in their first days of life.

The moment of clamping the umbilical cord has significant health effects on the baby.

Scientists conducted their study on 64 healthy pregnant women who went into labor in the San Cecilio Clinical Hospital in Granada, where the researchers are working. Half of the babies had their umbilical cord cut immediately, and half had it cut after 2 minutes. The results suggest that there is significant advantage in cutting the umbilical cord later; newborns who had it cut later rather than sooner there was an increase in the antioxidant capacity as well as moderation in the inflammatory effects. Which begs the question: why are we so eager to cut a biological cord responsible for blood and nutrient transfer?

The umbilical cord, also called a navel string or birth cord is a conduit between the developing embryo or fetus and the placenta. Before the baby is born, the umbilical cord is physiologically and genetically part of the fetus. The cord supports the baby with oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood from the placenta while also pumping deoxygenated, nutrient-depleted blood through the umbilical arteries back to the placenta. After the baby is born, the cord needs to be cut… but when? Many doctors have expressed concern that the cord is being cut too soon, and the science seems to back this up.

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A Cochrane review in 2013 came to the conclusion that delayed cord clamping (between one and three minutes after birth) is “likely to be beneficial as long as access to treatment for jaundice requiring phototherapy is available”. Also, delayed clamping resulted in an increased birth weight of on average about 100 g, and an increased hemoglobin concentration of on average 1.5 g/dL with half the risk of being iron deficient at three and six months, but an increased risk of jaundice requiring phototherapy.

A year earlier, in 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists officially endorsed delaying clamping of the umbilical cord for 30–60 seconds with the newborn held below the level of the placenta, but other research suggested clamping the cord later. A meta-analysis showed that delaying clamping of the umbilical cord in full-term neonates for a minimum of 2 minutes following birth is beneficial to the newborn in giving improved hematocrit, iron status as measured by ferritin concentration and stored iron, as well as a reduction in the risk of anemia.

All in all, there seem to be pretty good arguments both for, and against cutting the umbilical cord immediately (30-60 seconds) and later. For the first time, a study has analyzed how the impact of clamping affects oxidative and inflammatory stress produced in both the mother and the newborn.

“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 labour, which could improve the development of the newborn during his or her first days of life”, Ochoa concluded.

Based on materials from the University of Granada.