A New Study Looks at the Benefit of Delayed Cord Clamping Years After the Child Is Born

If your doctor told you that you could prevent iron deficiency in your newborn and likely increase his fine motor skills and social skills later in life by doing one simple thing, would you do it? A new study shows the long-term effects of delayed umbilical cord clamping — which involves waiting a few minutes to clamp the cord after birth in order for the baby to receive more blood from the placenta — could be reason enough to change one of birth's most common practices.

The study looked at 263 full-term Swedish newborns, half of whom were randomly assigned to delay cord clamping until three minutes after birth, while the other half had their cords clamped in under 10 seconds after birth. Four years later those same children were taken in for testing — IQ, behavior, problem-solving, and fine-motor, social, and communication skills — resulting in more advanced fine-motor and social skills scores in those children who participated in delayed clamping, particularly the boys.

While the effects on IQ and other social-personal skills appear to be unaffected, right now there are no negative effects of the practices, besides cases of jaundice or higher red blood cell counts — both of which very rarely have serious complications. However, the effects of this practice have only been studied in low-risk pregnancies in high-income countries, meaning higher-risk pregnancies haven't been studied — though some doctors speculate that delayed clamping and extra blood from the placenta would benefit these types of pregnancies most.

Is this study enough to make hospital practices change? Maybe not — yet. But it seems that this precious window of time between a baby's introduction into the world and his official separation from his mother and the placenta could lead to benefits that make it worth considering a massive change.