A new study wanted to examine whether the development of anemia in infants could be affected by delayed clamping of the umbilical cord at the time of birth. The results demonstrate that at 8 months of age, children with delayed clamping were 11% less likely to have anemia and the risk of suffering from iron deficiency was reduced by 42%.
Anemia is a disease characterized by the reduction in the amount of red blood cells circulating throughout the body and can usually be linked to iron deficiency. While symptoms of anemia can include being tired and feelings of overall weakness, the effects can be significantly more troublesome in children. Children afflicted by anemia are at risk of suffering from developmental delays, impacting cognitive, motor, and behavioural skills. Research has demonstrated that when you delay clamping of the umbilical cord, blood is transferred to newborns resulting in an increase in iron stores and a subsequent decrease in iron deficiency. However, these results have only been demonstrated in infants until the age of 6 months, with no clear evidence suggesting any longer-lasting effects. Therefore, researchers wanted to examine the effects of delayed clamping of the umbilical cord on infants at 8 months and at 12 months, in regards to the likelihood of developing anemia.
This study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, examined a total of 540 women from Nepal. Women were selected to partake in this study only if they were deemed to have had uncomplicated pregnancies, were expected to have uncomplicated vaginal births, and were giving birth to a single child. These women were randomly divided into either the early clamping group, which required the umbilical cord to be cut within 60 seconds of birth, or the delayed clamping group, which required the cord to be cut no less than 3 minutes from the time of birth. These children were re-examined at 8 months and 12 months, and during these visits were subjected to blood tests. The blood samples were analyzed to determine if any of these children had developed anemia. Also, during these visits parents would be asked about feeding habits in order to be able to control the results for any differences in diet.
Firstly, the results suggest that there was no significant difference between the feeding habits of the two groups. Additionally, the findings demonstrate that at the 8-month visit, the number of diagnoses of anemia was higher in the early clamping group in comparison to the delayed group, and that in the delayed group, the prevalence of iron deficiency was significantly reduced. At the 12 month visit, similar results were found in regards to the prevalence of anemia, however, at this time there was no difference between groups in regards to iron deficiency. Overall, these findings suggest that delayed clamping techniques could help to reduce the number of anemia cases in young children. This would be especially relevant as a cost-effective way to prevent childhood anemia cases in low-income countries. However, more research is needed to examine if the effects that result from delayed clamping persist as the child reaches major developmental milestones.
Written By: Sonia Parmar, BSc