Usually, as soon as a child is born, the doctors quickly check that it's healthy and breathing properly, and then, within seconds of birth, clamp its umbilical cord and cut it off, before handing it back to the mother.
But a new study conducted by the University of Granada in Spain has shown that simply delaying that process by two minutes influences how resistant to oxidative stress newborns are.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and the baby's antioxidant defences, and it's associated with triggering inflammation.
In the research, scientists looked at a group of 64 healthy pregnant women who went into labour in the San Cecilio Clinical Hospital in Granada. They all had a normal pregnancy and spontaneous natural deliveries, but half of their babies had their umbilical cords cut 10 seconds after birth and the other half had them cut two minutes after they were born.
The study showed that babies who had their umbilical cords cut later had significantly increased antioxidant capacity, and they also experienced less of the inflammation associated with labour. The results are published in the journal Pediatrics.
"Our study demonstrates that late clamping of the umbilical cord has a beneficial effect upon the antioxidant capacity and reduces the inflammatory signal induced during labor, which could improve the development of the newborn during his or her first days of life," the authors say.
While the results have only been tested in a relatively small group, it's a pretty important study, seeing as everyone who's born has to have their umbilical cord cut. And if there's a way we can do that to give babies the best chance at life, then why not pursue it?
Source: University of Granada