Fertility and pregnancy * Babies and children

Expert calls for delay in umbilical cord clamping in UK childbirths

Expert calls for delay in umbilical cord clamping in UK childbirths Health workers should follow WHO guidelines

It is common practice in childbirths in the UK for the umbilical cord linking the mother to the child to be clamped at soon as the baby is born. But a leading health expert claims that there is no evidence that this provides any benefit - and may even harm the baby.

Dr David Hutchon - retired consultant obstetrician from the Memorial Hospital in Darlington - points out that both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics recommend that clamping should be delayed by a few minutes.

He argues that “applying a clamp to the cord is clearly an intervention, having the greatest effect when it is done quickly after birth." And he fears that babies might be injured by very early clamping, for example they could experience severe blood loss.

But in the UK clamping immediately at birth has become such a widespread practice that many health professionals consider the idea of delaying this step to be new and unproven - and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is not advising them to make the change.

If NICE was to change its advice to bring it into line with international guidelines then most obstetricians and midwives would change their working practices almost overnight according to Dr Hutchon, in an article in bmj.com, the online publication of the British Medical Journal.

"Clamping the functioning umbilical cord at birth is an unproven intervention. Lack of awareness of current evidence, pragmatism, and conflicting guidelines are all preventing change.

"To prevent further injury to babies we would be better to rush to change," Dr Hutchon concludes.

This article was published on Thu 11 November 2010



Image © Lisa Eastman - Fotolia.com


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