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Mothers can hold newborns at chest or placenta level after birth, finds study

Delayed cord clamping is what decreases iron deficiency in infancy, not what position newborns are held after birth.

Image: Shutterstock

DELAYING CLAMPING OF the umbilical cord until around two minutes after birth allows for blood to pass from the mother’s placenta to the baby and has previously been shown to reduce the risk of iron deficiency in infancy.

A new study published by The Lancet looks at whether holding a newborn baby in a certain position makes any difference.

Based on studies conducted 35 years ago it is currently recommended that for effective placental transfusion to occur, the baby needs to be held at the level of the placenta – known as the introitus position - which is cumbersome, uncomfortable for the person holding the baby.

It can also interfere with immediate contact between mother and baby.

Iron

A group of researchers in Argentina decided to investigate, since these issues could be contributing to low compliance with this procedure in hospitals, ultimately resulting in higher than necessary levels of iron deficiency in babies and children.

They tested whether the transfer of blood in delayed cord clamping procedures is affected by the position in which the baby is held immediately after birth.

The research was conducted in three university affiliated hospitals in Argentina.

In the study, 197 babies were held in the introitus position while undergoing delayed cord clamping, as per the usual practice.

However, 194 babies were instead immediately placed on the mother’s tummy or chest.

The researchers were able to measure the volume of blood which had transferred from the placenta to the child by measuring the babies’ weights at the point of birth and immediately after the delayed cord clamping procedure.

Placing baby on tummy

They found no statistically significant difference between the two groups in the volume of blood transferred, indicating that placing the baby on the mother’s chest or abdomen is no less effective than the more awkward introitus position in delayed cord clamping procedures.

Professor Nestor Vain, of the Foundation for Maternal and Child Health (FUNDASAMIN) in Buenos Aires, Argentina said iron deficiency in newborn babies and children is a serious health problem in low-income countries and is also prevalent in countries from North America and western Europe.

“Our study suggests that when umbilical cord clamping is delayed for two minutes, holding the baby on the mother’s chest or abdomen is no worse than the currently recommended practice of holding the baby below this level,” he said.

“Because of the potential of enhanced bonding between mother and baby, increased success of breastfeeding and the compliance with the procedure, holding the infant by the mother immediately after birth should be strongly recommended,” added Professor Vain.

Cord clamping

Dr Tonse Raju of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda in the US said the introduction of delayed cord clamping into practice has been sporadic, stating that logistical issues could be one possible reason.

“Intuitively, to keep the newborn baby’s position below the level of the placenta in situ should maximise the volume of placental transfusion. However, trying to hold on to a wet, vigorously crying, and wriggling infant at the perineum for two minutes, in gloved hands, is awkward and can be risky. When the mother is waiting anxiously to hold her baby and the father is taking photographs, two minutes could seem like an eternity,” she said.

Dr Raju adds that the should bring a “sigh of relief from those trying to incorporate delayed umbilical cord clamping into practice…The results are convincing and show that gravity did not have an effect on volume of placental transfusion”.

Read: Ireland has highest birth rate of all 27 EU nations>

Read: Perinatal centre that aims to improve care of pregnant mothers and babies to open in Cork>

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