Delay improves survival rates for premature babies

Delaying cutting the umbilical cord on premature newborns is improving survival rates of babies born before full term, according to neonatal specialists at Australia’s largest maternity services provider.

Mater Mothers’ Hospital Director of Neonatology Dr Pita Birch said evidence suggested the neonatal team expected to see up to a 20% increase in survival rates in cases where cord clamping was delayed by one minute for babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation.

“These most fragile babies receive significant benefits from delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord for a minute after birth,” Dr Birch said.

“Delayed cord clamping improves blood flow to baby and provides the support of the placenta while the newborn transitions to life outside the womb.

“This technique has been shown to reduce deaths in very preterm babies and may also reduce long term brain, gut and lung complications.”

Dr Birch estimated that delayed cord clamping would save the lives of up to six premature babies born at Mater Mother’s Hospital every year.

Brisbane mum Nicola Pickering was grateful the technique was available for her son Flynn who was born at 25 weeks, weighing a tiny 425g, at Mater Mothers’ Hospital.

“I am so glad they did it, it gave us a good outcome for Flynn,” said the Boondall mother of two.

“I had hypertension which led to pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure spiked when I was 23 weeks pregnant and I was in hospital on bedrest for over a week before I gave birth.”

Baby Flynn, who spent 112 days in Mater’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, is now a happy 7.2kg 11-month-old who enjoys swimming and playing with his big sister.

Mater obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Erin Wilson said training and education of maternity and neonatal staff in delayed cord clamping began at Mater Mothers’ Hospital in 2019.

Since then, delayed cord clamping has become more common amongst midwifery, obstetric and paediatric staff, leading to an improvement in survival rates of premature babies.

“The rates of delayed cord clamping in the group of early preterm babies was around 37% prior to these changes and rose to around 57% after guideline changes,” Dr Wilson said.

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