UCC research aims to improve survival rate for preterm babies

20 Nov 2023

Image: © Rattanachat/Stock.adobe.com

Analysis from UCC suggests that delayed cord clamping after birth results in a higher survival rate for preterm babies.

According to the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 13.4m babies were born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) in 2020, and nearly 1m of those babies died from preterm complications. In a 2023 report, these organisations described preterm birth as a “silent emergency” that has long been “under-recognised in its scale and severity”.

New research from University College Cork’s Irish Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research (Infant), as part of a major international consortium, suggests a way to improve outcomes for preterm babies.

According to the research, just published in The Lancet medical journal, by waiting for two minutes or more to clamp the umbilical cord of premature babies after birth, doctors could decrease the baby’s risk of death by as much as two-thirds compared to immediately clamping the cord.

The researchers analysed data from 47 clinical trials which involved 6,094 babies and compared the delay in clamping with health outcomes. They found that the longer the delay, the greater the likely benefit.

“Waiting two or more minutes to clamp the cord had a 91pc probability of being the best treatment to prevent death shortly after birth. In comparison, immediate clamping had a very low probability (less than 1pc) of being the best treatment for preventing death in premature babies,” the researchers said.

Two trials conducted at Cork University Maternity Hospital contributed to the study database. Prof Eugene Dempsey, who led the Irish trials, said: “Until recently, the standard practice was to clamp the umbilical cord immediately after birth for premature babies. The findings from these reviews highlight the significant benefits of deferred cord clamping for preterm delivery, and it is clear now that except in rare circumstances, immediate clamping should be avoided.”

Director of Infant at UCC, Prof Geraldine Boylan said: “The high-impact findings published in The Lancet emphasise the importance of global collaborative research and clearly demonstrates the impact of clinical trials on neonatal care and outcomes for premature babies.”

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Rebecca Graham is production editor at Silicon Republic