What is it about?

Globally, 273 million children younger than 5 years suffer from lack of iron in the body, referred to as iron deficiency. Iron is important for early brain development and insufficient amounts of iron during infancy impairs this development. Some of the resulting negative effects are irreversible and cause health problems that have been shown to persist until adulthood. In the womb, the fetus receives all its nutrients from the mother through the placenta. At birth, the newborn baby is still attached to the placenta through the umbilical cord. By waiting to clamp the umbilical cord for a few minutes after birth, the newborn receives a large amount of extra blood which increases its blood volume by 30-40%. Blood is rich in iron and delaying clamping of the umbilical cord provides the baby with a substantial iron transfusion, which may have positive effects on brain development. In previous studies, we saw that delayed cord clamping protected healthy Nepalese infants from iron deficiency at 8 months of age and that these children also had improved development at 1 year of age. In the present study, we show that there was still a positive effect on motor development in girls, but not in boys, in the same group of children at 3 years of age.

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Why is it important?

This is the first study to show that delayed clamping of the umbilical cord at birth can have a positive influence on development in 3-year-olds. Delayed cord clamping could be a cost-effective way of improving child development worldwide.

Perspectives

I am thrilled by how a simple action such as delayed clamping of the umbilical cord at birth can have positive effects on child development years later. Improving child development does not always require expensive, high-tech equipment. The United Nation states that every child has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, which encompasses their right to grow and develop to their full potential. I hope that our findings will contribute to ameliorated health for children across the globe, irrespective of their economic situation.

Johan Berg
Lunds Universitet

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This page is a summary of: Effect of Delayed Cord Clamping on Neurodevelopment at 3 Years: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Neonatology, May 2021, Karger Publishers, DOI: 10.1159/000515838.
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