Hospitals are delaying cutting premature babies' umbilical cords by a minute after a study found it improved their chance of survival by 30 per cent.

Around 100 premature babies die in New Zealand every year but those numbers were expected to drop with this change in practice which Auckland City Hospital had already adopted.

The eight-year international study, which Kiwi researchers took part in, showed an extra minute attached to the mother allowed more blood to be pumped from the placenta which helped maintain healthy oxygen levels. The standard method was to cut the cord immediately.

Daisy Salter, who is now almost 2 years old, was one of the 312 New Zealand babies who took part in the study which concluded last year.


For Katie Salter, alarm bells started 16 weeks into her pregnancy. By 23 weeks, she was in labour.

At that point obstetrician and Liggins Institute researcher Dr Katie Groom, who was helping run the study in New Zealand, stepped in and asked Salter and her husband Neil if they wanted to take part in the trial.

"She explained very clearly with no pressure whatsoever. It felt very safe for us being part of the study because there was no risk to my baby or me, and potentially it could be really helpful to her," Salter said.

Weighing just over a pound of butter, Daisy Salter survived against all odds. Photo/ supplied
Weighing just over a pound of butter, Daisy Salter survived against all odds. Photo/ supplied

Of the 1600 babies, half the babies' cords were cut immediately and half were cut after 60 seconds.

Baby Daisy's was part of the delayed bunch, but if there were any signs of her struggling to breathe doctors were ready to cut the cord immediately.

Salter said an emergency C-section was done and "it was all go".

"It was the longest 60 seconds of my life. I couldn't see her because she was lying on the operating table and my husband was too scared to watch so we just put our trust in the professionals and it paid off," Salter said.

Weighing 545g, just over a block of butter, Daisy's cord was cut after 60 seconds. She spent nearly four months in an incubator before she was taken home.


"She was born the same day that Mohammed Ali died so we knew she would be a little fighter - it was a very good omen," Salter said.

Against all odds, Daisy made a full recovery and will celebrate her second birthday in June healthy and "full of beans".

This week, the University of Sydney-led study – which involved New Zealand researchers – won the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance Clinical Trial of the Year award, presented by the Australian Minister of Health.

Groom said before this research, they were unsure how best to care for these very small and vulnerable babies at the time of birth.

"Now we are pleased to announce hospitals are changing their practice to use the delayed method ... we know Auckland City Hospital has and we hope more will as word gets out," Groom said.

Salter said she was unsure if Daisy would be here today if she hadn't taken part in the study.

"I feel really privileged to be a part of it ... and knowing that's going to become the standard practice and save lots of little lives is really quite special."