Objectives: This study was carried out to assess whether delaying umbilical cord clamping is effective in improving the haematological status of term infants living in a malaria-endemic area, and whether this is associated with complications in infants and mothers.
Methods: We randomly assigned women delivering term babies in Mpongwe Mission Hospital, Zambia, to delayed cord clamping (DCC, n = 46) or immediate cord clamping (controls, n = 45) and followed their infants on a bi-monthly basis until the age of 6 months. We compared the haemoglobin (Hb) change from cord values and the proportion of anaemic infants. Secondary outcomes related to infant and maternal safety.
Results: Throughout the observation period infant Hb levels in both groups declined, but more rapidly in controls than in the DCC group [difference in Hb change from baseline at 4 months 1.1 g/dl, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.2; 2.1]. By 6 months, this difference had disappeared (0.0 g/dl, 95% CI -0.9; 0.8). The odds ratio for iron deficiency anaemia in the DCC group at 4 months was 0.3 (95% CI 0.1; 1.0), but no differences were found between the groups at 6 months. No adverse events were seen in infants and mothers.
Conclusion: Our findings indicate that DCC could help improve the haematological status of term infants living in a malaria-endemic region at 4 months of age. However, the beneficial haematological effect disappeared by 6 months. This simple, free and safe delivery procedure might offer a strategy to reduce early infant anaemia risk, when other interventions are not yet feasible.