Background: The umbilical cord is usually clamped immediately after birth. There is no sound evidence to support this approach, which might deprive the newborn of some benefits such as an increase in iron storage.
Objectives: We sought to determine the effect of timing of cord clamping on neonatal venous hematocrit and clinical outcome in term newborns and maternal postpartum hemorrhage.
Methods: This was a randomized, controlled trial performed in 2 obstetrical units in Argentina on neonates born at term without complications to mothers with uneventful pregnancies. After written parental consents were obtained, newborns were randomly assigned to cord clamping within the first 15 seconds (group 1), at 1 minute (group 2), or at 3 minutes (group 3) after birth. The infants' venous hematocrit value was measured 6 hours after birth.
Results: Two hundred seventy-six newborns were recruited. Mean venous hematocrit values at 6 hours of life were 53.5% (group 1), 57.0% (group 2), and 59.4% (group 3). Statistical analyses were performed, and results were equivalent among groups because the hematocrit increase in neonates with late clamping was within the prespecified physiologic range. The prevalence of hematocrit at <45% (anemia) was significantly lower in groups 2 and 3 than in group 1. The prevalence of hematocrit at >65% was similar in groups 1 and 2 (4.4% and 5.9%, respectively) but significantly higher in group 3 (14.1%) versus group 1 (4.4%). There were no significant differences in other neonatal outcomes and in maternal postpartum hemorrhage.
Conclusions: Delayed cord clamping at birth increases neonatal mean venous hematocrit within a physiologic range. Neither significant differences nor harmful effects were observed among groups. Furthermore, this intervention seems to reduce the rate of neonatal anemia. This practice has been shown to be safe and should be implemented to increase neonatal iron storage at birth.