Finally… the current issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology includes an article that supports delayed cord clamping (DCC) for healthy term newborns. (Obstetrics & Gynecology is the official journal of the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, better known as ACOG.)
Written by pediatrician Ryan McAdams of the University of Washington, the article reviews the evidence that delayed cord clamping (DCC) is beneficial for healthy term newborns compared with early cord clamping (ECC), mainly because DCC provides increased iron to the newborn.* (For a brief tutorial on the timing of cord clamping and why iron is so important to infant brain development, click here for a couple of posts I wrote for Science & Sensibility, Lamaze International’s blog.)
Despite the proven benefits of DCC, and the ease of switching from ECC to DCC (there’s no training or equipment needed–the obstetrician simply has to wait two or three minutes after delivery to clamp the cord), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has been lukewarm in recommending the practice. In a 2012 policy statement, ACOG stated that:
“…insufficient evidence exists to support or to refute the benefits from delayed umbilical cord clamping for term infants that are born in settings with rich resources.”
That phrasing was a bit of a puzzler. Given that a) it’s been known for several years that DCC increases iron stores in infancy, and b) that as many as 1 in 6 American toddlers are iron deficient, it’s not exactly clear what “insufficient evidence” and “settings with rich resources” ACOG was referring to.
McAdams dismantles that logic:
“Delayed cord clamping in term neonates promotes improved iron stores, prevents anemia beyond the neonatal period, and is more physiological than early cord clamping. Although the effect of delayed cord clamping may be more apparent in settings with a high prevalence of anemia in neonates and children, it is likely to have an important effect on all newborns, independent of birth setting.”
It’s hard to know if this will be enough to get ACOG to amend its 2012 statement on the timing of cord clamping for term babies. Regardless, now comes the hard part–convincing reluctant maternity care providers to change old practice habits and adopt DCC, with or without ACOG’s official blessing. This article should help.
* * *
*There are even greater benefits for premature babies, but that’s the topic of a different post.