Big change to umbilical cord protocol is a win for babies

May 1, 2015 at 9:50 a.m. ET

After a decade of campaigning to give new mothers more time attached to their babies before the umbilical cord is cut midwife Amanda Burleigh has succeeded in getting the official guidelines changed.

It has been standard practice to clamp the umbilical cord within seconds of a baby being born since the 1950s, to reduce the risk of the hormonal injection given to the mother to stop haemorrhaging causing harm to the infant.

However the drug has since been replaced with a safer substitute, leading Burleigh to question whether shutting off the blood supply from the placenta so early was necessary.

She believed it was unnatural to cut the umbilical cord when it was still visibly pulsating with blood and began to research the issue with the help of a group of fellow medics.

During their research, they uncovered evidence that cutting the cord straight after birth could deprive a newborn of one third of its blood stock. They also found that immediate cord clamping increased the risk of iron deficiency anaemia, which is linked to cognitive learning delays.

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Despite "quite a lot of resistance" from doctors and midwives who felt she had no right to question long-standing medical protocol, Burleigh persevered with her campaign and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has changed its guidelines on cord clamping. NICE now states that doctors and midwives should not routinely clamp the cord "earlier than one minute from the birth of the baby."

Burleigh, who has been a midwife for 26 years and was recently named Midwife of the Year by the British Journal Of Midwifery, welcomed the change. She told The Telegraph: "I couldn't sit back and ignore what I had seen when it became visible to me. Because if we see something that's wrong, we have to change it. I think we'll look back in years to come and realise that immediate cord clamping was not a good idea."

"I want to make sure it becomes the norm here but it's also my job to support my colleagues in other countries," she added. "Britain leads the way and others will follow. I'm supporting midwives in Australia, Norway, Sweden, Pakistan, Tunisia, Israel, Turkey and more. What I really want now is global change."

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