birthOfficial guidelines advising cutting the umbilical cord immediately after birth are to be reviewed after research suggested it may put babies at risk of iron deficiency.

The existing guidance on cord-clamping was published in 2007, when the consensus was that cutting the cord immediately was the best option but since then researchers have questioned whether that is still the case.

Lower iron stores
A paper from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) published in 2009, stated that babies whose umbilical cords are clamped immediately have lower iron stores and poor brain development.

Leaving the cord attached for a few minutes allows the blood in the cord to transfer to the baby. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says it will publish new guidelines next year.

Based on clinical assessment
Commenting on the current re-evaluation of the guidance, an RCOG spokeswoman said: "The college recommends that the umbilical cord should not be clamped earlier than necessary and should always be based on clinical assessment of the situation.

"Research has shown that delayed cord clamping of more than 30 seconds may benefit the newborn in reducing anaemia. It also allows time for the transfusion of placental blood to the newborn, especially in cases of premature birth."

But she said there could be some cases where complications meant it was better to clamp the cord immediately.

No good evidence
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said: "When a baby is born about a third for the baby's blood is still in his/her cord and placenta.

"With no good evidence to support it, accepted practice is to accelerate the arrival of the placenta with an injection and clamp and cut the cord immediately, depriving the baby of this blood.

"The NCT would like to see the default position become leaving the cord for a few minutes until it stops pulsating, unless the mother chooses to have an injection to speed the arrival of her placenta or unless the blood loss from the mother means her uterus must be encouraged, with drugs, to contract and expel the placenta quickly."