Delaying the clamping of a newborn’s umbilical cord for just five minutes could have long-term health benefits, a new URI nursing study asserts.
“When we wait five minutes to clamp the cords of healthy babies, there is a return of the infant’s own blood from the placenta, and one of the results is a return of up to 50 percent of the baby’s iron-rich blood cells,” said URI Professor of Nursing Debra A. Erickson-Owens, a certified nurse-midwife, who conducted the study with Judith S. Mercer, also a midwife and URI nursing professor emeritus. “So when the brain needs red blood cells (and iron) to make myelin, the robustness of the iron stores make a big difference,” Erickson-Owens said.
Myelin is a fatty substance in the brain that wraps around all of the axons of the nerve cells. “It’s an insulator and very important in the transfer of messages across the nerve cells in the brain. It’s assumed that the better the myelination, the more efficient the brain processing is.
“The regions of the brain affected by increased myelination are those associated with motor, sensory processing/function, and visual development. These are all important for early-phase development.”
The study, published in the December issue of The Journal of Pediatrics and funded by a $2.4 million National Institutes of Health grant, challenges the practice of immediate cord clamping, which is still widespread.
Read more about this low-tech, low-cost technique.