Exercising a little patience when cutting and clamping a premature newborn’s umbilical cord may only help them in the long run, a new study published in the Journal of Perinatology has concluded.

Observing 40 infants born at 22 through 27 weeks into pregnancy, the authors found that those whose cords were clamped 30 to 45 seconds after delivery proved to have better blood circulation in the first 24 hours of life compared to those whose cords were cut and clamped after five to 10 seconds, a period of time long considered the standard. The delayed clamping also appeared to be no less safer for the infants.

"Infants born prior to 28 weeks gestation represent a high-risk subgroup, so efforts to improve outcomes remain critically important," said lead author Dr. Carl Backes in a statement. "There is increasing evidence that delayed cord clamping may give infants in many categories a better chance." Backes is also a cardiologist and neonatologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, the site where the study was held.

Of the 40 mother-daughter pairs, randomized to receive either delayed cord clamping (DCC) or immediate cord clamping (ICC), the only possibly negative outcome found in the DCC group was a slightly higher body temperature (97.4 vs. 96.2 degrees F). Otherwise, the DCC infants generally had higher and healthier blood pressure readings, needed less treatment for hypotension (low blood pressure) and recieved less blood transfusions in the first 28 days of life than did their ICC counterparts.On average, their gestational age was 24 weeks, and their birth weight was around 1.4 pounds.

The authors believe that the short delay allows more blood to enter the infant’s body, which in turn improves blood flow. Given the fragility of these extremely premature newborns — 22 weeks being the absolute limit of viability currently — any intervention that can potentially improve their health in the crucial first days of life would be sorely welcomed, especially when it comes at little to no risk to the infant.

Though encouraged by their findings, the authors caution that a “more comprehensive appraisal of this practice is needed” before they can strongly advocate its use in the delivery room.

Source: Backes C, Huang H, Iams J, et al. Timing of umbilical cord clamping among infants born at 22 through 27 weeks’ gestation. Journal of Perinatology. 2015.