Umbilical cord milking safe for newborns' neurodevelopment, study finds

An alternative method of transferring blood cells to weakened newborns through their umbilical cord does not carry long-term neurodevelopmental risks compared to standard practice, a recent study found. The research will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2024 Meeting, held May 3-6 in Toronto. 

Umbilical cord blood contains oxygen and beneficial nutrients for newborns, experts say. Doctors may delay clamping a newborn's umbilical cord to pass nutrients through their cord if they have poor breathing or a low heart rate immediately after birth. A study found that umbilical cord milking (UCM), an alternative method of transferring cord blood where a doctor squeezes the umbilical cord toward the infant before clamping, does not cause long-term harm.

Researchers assessed 971 children's communication, motor skills, problem-solving, and social skills across 10 U.S. medical centers. Study authors found that children who received UCM at birth were no more likely to have neurological challenges two years after the procedure compared to those who received early cord clamping.

The short- and long-term benefits point to UCM as a safe alternative for ensuring weakened newborns can live a full, healthy life. UCM is a no-cost option for obstetricians to preserve the health and wellbeing of children."

Anup Katheria, MD, physician at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns and presenting author

Study authors say raising awareness of UCM as a safe option for supporting weakened newborns is important to promoting equity among resource-limited settings.

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