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Midwives, obstetricians, and other birth attendants have been arguing for years about the timing of cord clamping in newborn babies. In most Western countries, the cord is clamped and cut immediately after delivery. Elsewhere, birth attendants sometimes wait for several minutes, to allow extra blood to transfuse from the placental circulation into the neonateneonate.
Small trials and systematic reviews suggest that delayed clamping is probably in the baby's best interests, and the latest meta-analysis supports this view. Pooled analysis of 15 trials in nearly 2000 newborns showed that delayed clamping helps prevent anaemia for up to three months in term babies (relative risk 0.53, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.70). Iron stores and ferritin concentrations were significantly higher in babies whose cords were clamped at least two minutes after delivery. So was the risk of polycythaemia, although this side effect seemed harmless. No excess problems with jaundice or respiratory distress were seen in babies whose cords were clamped late.
The authors think there is now enough evidence to support a change in practice, and they suggest that birth attendants wait at least two minutes before clamping the cord of any healthy full term infant.