For years the idea of delayed cord clamping has been a matter of some debate. Some studies indicate that there could be health benefits to waiting a few minutes before clamping the baby’s umbilical cord. Of course, some people have taken that idea a little too far. At least one mom has committed to letting her baby’s umbilical cord fall off naturally–she carried it around in a bag for days, until the newborn yanked it off himself. Many doctors say not to do that. Now a new study indicates delaying cord clamping by 60 seconds could have huge benefits for preterm babies.

“Thousands of preterm babies could be saved by waiting 60 seconds before clamping the umbilical cord after birth instead of clamping it immediately,” according to two new studies out of the University of Sydney.

Delayed cord clamping reduced mortality in preterm babies.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at 3,000 babies born before 37 weeks gestation. It compared babies whose cords were clamped immediately, and those where it was delayed 60 seconds. Study authors say they found clear evidence that delayed clamping reduced hospital mortality by a third.

Delayed cord clamping also seems to be related to fewer subsequent blood transfusions.

“The review shows for the first time that simply clamping the cord 60 seconds after birth improves survival,” said the University of Sydney’s Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, senior author.

Delayed cord clamping could save thousands of preterm babies’ lives every year.

“We estimate that for every thousand very preterm babies born more than ten weeks early, delayed clamping will save up to 100 additional lives compared with immediate clamping,” said neonatal specialist David Osborn, lead author of the study. “This means that, worldwide, using delayed clamping instead of immediate clamping can be expected to save between 11,000 and 100,000 additional lives every year.”

The study authors say their findings support delayed cord clamping for all preterm babies who do not need immediate resuscitation. This is a huge development, because delayed cord clamping is so easy and safe to use. It costs nothing, takes virtually no effort, and it could save thousands of lives and make a huge difference to countless families.

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(H/T Scary Mommy, Image: iStockPhoto/Wacharaphong)