When a baby enters the world there’s a lot going on in the labor and delivery room. The welcoming committee of doctors and nurses are moving fast, but when it comes to clamping the umbilical cord, waiting just 60 seconds could save a premature baby’s life.
A new study slated to be published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology analyzed data from nearly 3,000 preemies and suggests waiting to clamp the cord reduces the risk of infant deaths by a third.
Moms and midwives advocated for it for years, and delayed cord clamping is now standard for full-term babies, as it’s recommended by the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, but the Australian researchers behind the study say their work shows the practice is safe and beneficial for premature babies, too.
"This is such a significant finding because it's such a simple intervention,” professor Jonathan Morris of University of Sydney told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It meant for every 20 babies born at less than 28 weeks that received delayed cord clamping, one extra baby would survive," he explains.
According to Morris, there are several possible reasons for this. The extra time itself may just be what the baby needs to adapt to life outside the womb, or it could be because the delay allows extra blood to enter the baby’s system, or because the delay boosts the baby’s resistance to infection by allowing a transfusion of white blood cells.
Morris says that most premature babies will begin breathing on their own when given that extra 60 seconds. If they have the extra minute on the cord they may avoid interventions like breathing tubes.
The delivery room can be chaos, especially when a baby comes too soon, but science proves that when it comes to clamping the cord, it’s best for everybody to just slow down a minute.