Umbilical ‘clamping’ not being offered to all Scots

A TECHNIQUE recommended by midwives to reduce the risk of anaemia and other complications in babies is not being offered to all women in Scotland, The Scotsman can reveal.

Research has found that delaying the clamping of the umbilical cord after birth so blood continues to flow into the baby for a few minutes longer can cut the risk of some medical problems and boost babies’ health.

But a Freedom of Information request has revealed that while some boards routinely practise this technique, others do not offer women the choice of having delayed clamping.

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While boards said those who asked for a delay would be allowed this, experts said women often did not know about the measure or that they could make a request.

Research has found that being connected to the maternal blood supply for longer can help protect babies against iron deficiency and anaemia in later childhood and also allow vital stem cells to be transferred. Others have even suggested delayed clamping could reduce the risk of learning difficulties, ADHD, autism and sudden death.

But despite guidance from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists stating that the cord should not be clamped until a few minutes after birth, many hospitals do not recognise the policy.

This means that the standard practice of cutting the cord within 30 seconds of birth still persists in many maternity units.

Some health boards said that delayed cord clamping would be offered unless there was a clinical reason not to do so, such as risks to the safety of mother or baby.

NHS Tayside, Borders, Ayrshire and Arran, Dumfries and Galloway and Forth Valley said delaying clamping was common practice. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said new guidelines meant all women would routinely be offered delayed clamping. NHS Lothian said it was also working on new guidance and NHS Lanarkshire said if requested it would be allowed where appropriate.

However, NHS Grampian said it did not have a policy and women would not be asked, but if a specific request was made it would be accommodated if appropriate. NHS Highland also said it was “not routine practice” to delay cord clamping. NHS Fife said it did not currently offer delayed cord clamping, but would honour requests.

NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland said women would not be asked, but if they did it would be permitted, while NHS Western Isles said it did not have a specific policy but would ask if a partner wanted to cut the cord which may prompt a woman to request a delay.

Gillian Smith, head of RCM Scotland, said: “We are quite clear hospitals should routinely be offering delayed clamping.”