A delayed clamping of the umbilical cord after birth can benefit newborn babies, according to a new study.
The study, reviewing 15 international trials and involving nearly 4,000 women along with their babies, was done by La Trobe University in Melbourne.
Lead author of 'Midwifery' at the university, Susan McDonald, said the review found babies' blood and iron levels were enhanced when the umbilical cord was clamped later.
The findings were published today by the Cochrane Collaboration, widely regarded as the world's leading independent provider of systematic health reviews.
The review said that in many high-income countries, it was standard practice to clamp the umbilical cord connecting mother and baby less than a minute after birth.
"However, clamping the cord too soon may reduce the amount of blood that passes from mother to baby via the placenta, affecting the baby's iron stores," the review said, according to university statement.
On the other hand, it noted that delayed cord clamping, which is carried out more than a minute after birth, may also slightly increase the risk of jaundice, which is treated by light therapy.
"The benefits of delayed cord clamping needed to be weighed against this small additional risk of jaundice in newborns," the review said.
McDonald said the review supports the World Health Organization recommendation of cord clamping between one and three minutes after birth.
The researchers looked at outcomes for mothers and babies separately, and at haemoglobin concentrations as an indicator of healthy blood and iron levels.
"While clamping the cord later made no difference to the risk of maternal haemorrhaging, blood loss or haemoglobin levels," the review said, adding, "babies were healthier in a number of respects."
"Delayed clamping meant babies had higher haemoglobin levels between one and two days after birth and were less likely to be iron-deficient three to six months after birth," it said.
Their birth weight was also higher with delayed cord clamping, the study said.