Delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord by one minute could save the lives of thousands of premature babies.
An Australian-led study, approved for publishing in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, has assessed morbidity and mortality outcomes from 18 international trials comparing delayed versus immediate cord clamping in nearly 3000 births before 37 weeks gestation.
It found evidence that delayed clamping reduced mortality by a third and is safe for mothers and pre-term infants. The research also found it reduced the need for blood transfusions.
"It confirms international guidelines recommending delayed clamping in all preterm babies who do not need immediate resuscitation," said University of Sydney Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, a senior author.
Neonatal specialist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and lead author Professor David Osborn said he would expect worldwide use of delayed clamping to save between 11,000 and 100,000 additional lives every year.
"We estimate that for every thousand very preterm babies born more than 10 weeks early, delayed clamping will save up to 100 additional lives compared with immediate clamping," Professor Osborn said.
The systematic review confirmed new findings from the Australian Placental Transfusion Study, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, reporting that delayed clamping might reduce mortality before 36 weeks.