Clamping The Cord Too Early May Harm Baby
Clamping the cord immediately after birth has no benefits for mother or baby and could actually be harmful, a UK expert has warned.
Instead, leaving around three minutes can boost the baby's stores of iron, cutting any anaemia risks.
Babies born prematurely would particularly benefit from a delay to clamping where it is safe to do so, according to a British Medical Journal.
Early clamping has regularly been used as part of "active birth management" guidelines, which have been shown to reduce the risk of the mother haemorrhaging immediately after the birth.
But Dr Andrew Weeks, a senior lecturer in obstetrics at Liverpool University, said that although some steps were important, there was no evidence that immediate clamping had any benefit for the mother.
In the baby, evidence has shown that allowing the cord blood to keep flowing for a few minutes increases the iron stores.
In the developing world, where anaemia can be a big problem, normal practice has now changed to delay clamping and the World Health Organization has dropped early clamping from its guidelines.
Dr Weeks, who is also a practising obstetrician, said it was time to reconsider the practice in the UK.
"It would never be implemented now if it wasn't part of standard practice, but people are reluctant to remove it because it's part of current culture.
"There is now considerable evidence that early cord clamping does not benefit mothers or babies and may even be harmful."
He recommended waiting three minutes in healthy babies but said the issue was more complicated in babies born prematurely or by caesarean section even though they would perhaps benefit the most.
"For them a policy of 'wait a minute' would be pragmatic," he added.
There have been concerns that in healthy babies delaying clamping could increase the risk of jaundice, but a recent study in the US suggested this was not the case.
Professor Andrew Shennan, spokesperson for the baby charity Tommy's, said it was not currently routine to delay clamping.
"It wouldn't be a big step not to clamp the cord for a while, and that's what nature intended.
"Asking a midwife to do that is a perfectly reasonable request - this is an area we need to look at."