Delaying umbilical cord cutting may boost fine motor development

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Delaying umbilical cord cutting may boost fine motor development
Delaying umbilical cord cutting may boost fine motor development

Waiting to cut the umbilical cord for three minutes after a baby’s birth may help improve the child’s fine motor and social skills by age four, according to a new study from Sweden. The research, published in the online JAMA Pediatrics, found that boys showed the greatest benefit from delayed cord cutting.

The new study was done as follow-up to a clinical study involving more than 400 healthy newborns. The earlier study found the risk of iron deficiency at the age of 4 months was considerably lower in infants whose cord cutting was delayed by three minutes in comparison to infants whose cords were removed within 10 seconds of delivery.

“During delayed clamping the child receives half a cup of extra blood, which contains a lot of iron, and can prevent iron deficiency,” lead study author Ola Andersson, MD, PhD, a consultant in pediatrics and neonatology and a researcher in the department of women’s and children’s health in Uppsala University in Sweden, told HealthDay.

In the follow-up study, Andersson and his colleagues assessed the longer-term impact of delayed cord clamping among 263 Swedish children born at full term to healthy mothers four years after their original study. Psychologists assessed the children, using tests for IQ, motor skills and behavior. In addition, parents answered questions about their children’s communication, problem-solving and social skills.

The findings revealed that there were no differences in IQ and overall development in babies whose cords were cut at three minutes and those who were cut at 10 seconds. However, those with delayed cord clamping had better fine motor skills – the synchronization of small muscle movements that involve the coordination of hands and fingers with the eyes – when they were 4 years old. This was especially evident in the boys, while no differences were seen in girls regardless of the time of cord clamping.

“Boys had the most benefit from delayed cord clamping. We believe it’s because boys are more likely to have iron deficiency, and therefore have a greater advantage of receiving the extra blood transfusion,” explained Andersson.

In response to concerns about any risks associated with delaying cord clamping, Andersson acknowledged earlier studies found that some newborns could be more jaundiced if the cutting was delayed. However, she said her study and those of others were not able to demonstrate the same results.

In a journal editorial accompanying the new study, co-author Heike Rabe, MD, a senior clinical lecturer and honorary consultant neonatologist at Brighton & Sussex Medical School’s academic department of pediatrics at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton, England, supported the study’s findings. “There is growing evidence from a number of studies that all infants – born at term and those born to early – do benefit from receiving extra blood from the placenta at birth,” she wrote.

Rabe and her co-authors concluded “the potential benefit of improving maternal and neonatal care by a simple no-cost intervention of delayed [cord clamping] should be championed by the international community.”

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