Delaying umbilical cord clamping for preterm infants results in better motor development

News Brief by Katie Campbell

            A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics has found that delaying the clamping of a preterm infant’s umbilical cord may lead to better motor function. Nursing Professor Emeritus Judith S. Mercer and Associate Professor of Nursing Debra A. Erickson-Owens at the University of Rhode Island performed the six-year retrospective study. It was the first study of its kind to examine the impact of delayed cord clamping and cord milking in the very low birth weight infant population. Delayed clamping and cord milking encourages blood flow from the placenta into the baby.

            The researchers used the Bayley III Composite motor assessment to measure the motor function of each subject. A normal score is considered to be above 85. The study showed that only 9 of the babies who had delayed cord clamping scored below 85 compared to 23 who had immediate clamping. The end-result was a 68% decrease in motor function, which is “so critical for babies because it is how they learn, how they experience the world."

            This study concretely shows how a simple clinical intervention can have an immense impact in the life of a child, and comes after showing that cord clamping can reduce brain bleeding and infection. The team will continue to investigate how their cohort compares to a normal cohort of non-preterm infants.


Mercer, J., Erickson-Owens, D., Vohr, B., Tucker, R., Parker, A., Oh, W., & Padbury, J.      (2015). Effects of Placental Transfusion on Neonatal and 18 Month Outcomes       in Preterm Infants: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Pediatrics. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from    2015/11/