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The importance of the umbilical cord not only for the fetus but also for newborns was demonstrated by Swedish researchers several years ago, in a study that received great international acclaim. In a follow-up study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics they have now been able to show an association between delayed cord clamping (DCC) and children’s fine motor skills at age four, particularly in boys.
Several years ago, in a clinical study of 400 newborns, Dr. Ola Andersson and colleagues demonstrated that the risk of iron deficiency at four months of age was significantly lower in infants whose cord cord had been clamped and severed three minutes after birth (“delayed cord clamping”, DCC) than in those whose cords were removed within ten seconds (“early cord clamping”, ECC). The newborns in the study were well-nourished babies born after full-term pregnancies to healthy mothers.
“If the cord is left in place for three minutes, blood continues to flow through the newborn’s circulation. The baby receives about one deciliter of extra blood, which corresponds to two liters in an adult,” explains Dr Andersson, a researcher at Uppsala University and a pediatrician in Halmstad.
In much of the world, cord clamping and cutting takes place immediately after birth and the baby is thus deprived of an important iron supplement from the cord blood. In poor countries, according to scientists, this iron deficiency due to the practice of stopping placental transfusion before its end can have a particularly serious impact on child development.
The JAMA Pediatrics article in question describes a four-year study following a total of 263 (69%) babies from the first study. The development of these children was studied using IQ and cognitive tests, as well as questionnaires for parents.
The results reveal no difference in IQ or overall development between children whose cords were cut early and those who underwent delayed cord clamping (DCC). On the other hand, both the tests and the answers to the questionnaire were able to show that the children in whom the DCC had taken place had slightly better fine motor skills at the age of four years. The difference became clearer when the researchers looked at the differences between the sexes: it is especially in boys that the DCC exerts an impact on fine motor skills.
“From birth, girls generally have better iron stores, so boys are at high risk of iron deficiency. We hope that our study will lead to new recommendations around the world.
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Material provided by Uppsala University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.