Magazine article Science News

Umbilical Clamping Affects Anemia Risk

Magazine article Science News

Umbilical Clamping Affects Anemia Risk

Article excerpt

A team of researchers working in Guatemala says it has found a painless, no-cost means of enriching babies' blood with iron at birth: delaying slightly the clamping of a newborn's umbilical cord.

This change in obstetrical procedure, the group reported last week at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, D.C., may cut down on early development of iron deficiency anemia. Rampant in the developing world, anemia robs youngsters of a strong start in life by slowing growth and learning. Studies conducted more than 30 years ago demonstrated that delayed clamping of the umbilical cord enables newborns to receive far more blood than immediate clamping, a common obstetrical practice in much of the world, including the United States. To investigate whether a delay might also slow the onset of anemia, Rafael Perez-Escamilla of the University of Connecticut in Storrs and his colleagues initiated a randomized, controlled trial in a village outside Guatemala City.

In roughly one-third of the 69 full-term births, obstetrician Ruben Grajeda, then of the Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama, or a colleague clamped shut the umbilical cord immediately. In another third, they delayed clamping until the cord stopped pulsing-about 1 minute-while the baby rested at the level of the placenta. They delayed clamping in the remaining births while holding the baby below the placenta, allowing gravity to assist in bringing blood to the infant.

Two months later, 88 percent of children whose cord had been immediately clamped had signs of early onset iron deficiency anemia-almost twice as many as in either of the delayed clamping groups, reports Perez-Escamilla. Though the researchers detected no adverse effects from delayed clamping, Perez-Escamilla says follow-up work is needed to determine how long the apparent advantages of the procedure last. In the meantime, he is excited about the finding because "it has proven very difficult to prevent the onset of iron deficiency anemia or to correct the problem once it develops. …

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