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Umbilical Cord ‘Milking’ Dangerous for Preemies

TUESDAY, Nov. 19, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Squeezing the last drops of blood from the umbilical cord has been touted to help preterm babies get more of the nutrients they need, but it may be dangerous, a new study finds.

When umbilical cord blood is forced into the baby’s abdomen, the pressure can cause tiny blood vessels in the brain to rupture. This is especially dangerous for the most preterm infants, the researchers said.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was stopped due to the heightened risk of internal bleeding.

In the study, researchers wanted to see if so-called “cord milking” was a good alternative to delayed cord clamping. Delayed clamping lets cord blood flow into the infant at a natural pace.

“Most doctors try delayed cord clamping when they can, and they occasionally will do the cord milking,” said lead researcher Dr. Anup Katheria, a neonatologist at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns, in San Diego, Calif.

Babies who get cord blood aren’t just getting blood, he said.

“These babies are getting stem cells and other cells that might help them develop a little bit better than babies that don’t receive this extra blood,” Katheria said. “They also get iron, which is a potent nutrient for brain development, and there’s probably other things in the blood that might help these babies.”

But, given these findings, he that said cord milking should be avoided in extremely preterm babies, those born at 23 to 27 weeks of pregnancy.

For the study, Katheria’s team recruited women who were pregnant for less than 32 weeks and were at risk for preterm delivery. They were randomly assigned to umbilical cord milking or a 60-second delay in cord clamping.

The team had planned to enroll 1,500 infants (750 in each group). Because the study was cut short, only 474 babies were included, according to the report.

Among infants who had cord milking 12% died or developed severe brain bleeds, compared with 8% in the delayed-clamping group. The researchers said this difference wasn’t statistically significant.

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