On 17th August, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph , reported that early cutting of the umbilical cord after birth could be harmful to newborns. The Daily Mail took a more positive stance with the news that a short delay in cutting the cord could actually “improve a newborn’s health”.
The stories are based on an editorial written by a senior lecturer in obstetrics from the University of Liverpool.
The Daily Telegraph quoted the author, Dr Andrew Weeks, as saying, “There is now considerable evidence that early cord clamping does not benefit mothers or babies and may even be harmful."
The Daily Mail reported the author as saying that despite current UK practice to cut the umbilical cord at one minute to counter the risk of jaundice, “Waiting until three minutes would increase the child's iron levels and reduce the risk of anaemia.”
On the back of this interesting editorial, a systematic review of existing evidence would provide more robust evidence on harms and benefits associated with clamping the umbilical cord in healthy women undergoing normal deliveries.
The story comes from an editorial written by Dr Andrew Weeks, a senior lecturer in obstetrics from the School of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine at the University of Liverpool. The editorial was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal the British Medical Journal .
The story is not based on an individual study, but on an editorial where the author has presented his personal narrative review of the evidence around cord clamping. He points out that the World Health Organisation and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have dropped the recommendation for early cord clamping from their guidelines.
A recent review of policy across Europe has shown wide variation in practice, with only 17% of units in Denmark but about 90% of obstetric units in France promoting a policy of early cord clamping. This practice clearly needs further consideration in the UK.
In his editorial, the author highlights various studies that support the claim that early clamping does not necessarily benefit the newborn. Early clamping also appears to have no benefit for the mother and trials have shown that it has no effect on the risk of postpartum haemorrhage or retained placenta.
He also cites research which shows that at the time of the first breath, blood is drawn into the lungs from the umbilical vein which can have benefits for iron status and haemoglobin levels in the newborn baby, and the author states that this has impact on the risk of anaemia.
The author, Dr Andrew Weeks, concludes that based on the “considerable evidence that early cord clamping does not benefit mothers or babies and may even be harmful”, professionals should consider “incorporating delayed cord clamping into delivery routines.”
This editorial raises some interesting points which will have an implication for current practice in the UK.