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Surprising Science

Easy Cure Found for Infantile Anemia?

When the bodies of newborns lack iron, physical and mental development can be stifled. New research suggests that leaving the umbilical cord attached longer prevents iron deficiencies.

What’s the Latest Development?

Cutting the umbilical cord three minutes after birth, rather than immediately, may prevent iron deficiencies in newborns and stop developmental complications associated with infantile anemia. Swedish researchers recruited 334 healthy pregnant women to conduct an experiment in which, after giving birth, half the umbilical cords were cut immediately and the other half after three minutes. When doctors checked iron levels in the infants four months later, the babies in the latter group had 45% more iron in their blood.

What’s the Big Idea?

Conventional wisdom states that leaving the umbilical accord attached to baby after birth risks transmitting too much of the mother’s blood to the infant. But new research challenges that wisdom, which also runs contrary to evolutionary biology. In nature, umbilical cords stay attached longer than in hospital conditions. It is only with medical instruments and sharp scissors that it can be separated immediately. If the experiment can be repeated, the burden of proof will shift to those who favor cutting the cord just after birth.

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