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Vital Signs: Umbilically Speaking, Good Things For Those Who Wait

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Doctors usually clamp and cut the umbilical cord less than a minute after childbirth. But a study recently published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests waiting longer would benefit a newborn. Dr. Sheri Puffer, an Ob-Gyn with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, explains why in this edition of KERA’s series Vital Signs.

Three Options To Consider About the Umbilical Cord

1. Doctors typically clamp and sever the cord less than a minute after childbirth. Results of the study suggest waiting longer – even as long three minutes – allows more blood to move from the placenta and helps boost iron stores and hemoglobin levels in newborns. However, the delay can lead to jaundice in some cases.

2. Some parents “bank” or store the cord blood for future use. The fetal stem cells have no disease (“clean cells”, says Dr. Puffer) and can be used to treat various genetic disorders that affect the blood and immune system, leukemia and certain cancers, and some inherited disorders of body chemistry.

3. Doctors until recently discarded the cord, but research shows the cord tissue contain Mesenchymal Stem Cells (different from those found in cord blood), which have the potential for treating many diseases and for development into many types of connective tissue.

For more information:

Study Results from The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

What is the umbilical cord?

Pros and cons (including costs) of banking umbilical cord blood

Umbilical cord care: Do’s and don’ts for parents

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.