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Cutting the Umbilical Cord too Soon?

Are we cutting umbilical cords too soon? Study says yes.
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Any parent will tell you that those first few moments after birth are filled with a ton of emotions. Tears are shed. Photos are snapped. A general euphoria fills the room.

And then that cord gets cut.

For Mom and Dad, that first minute of life is all about sighs of relief and counting all 10 fingers and all 10 toes. But for babies, their first 60 seconds or so—known in the medical world as the "Golden Minute"—mean so much more than we ever realized.

According to new research, our common practice of clamping umbilical cords immediately after birth is going about it all wrong. By doing so, we're denying babies the proper amount of blood-flow they need at such a crucial stage, and increasing their chances of an iron deficiency later on. But leaving it on longer can lead to increased birth weights, higher hemoglobin levels, and stronger lungs. It even helps boost baby's blood supply by 30-40 percent for their entire lifetime.

In light of these findings, experts are urging doctors to leave the umbilical cord attached for several more minutes, allowing it to pulsate so it brings much-needed blood and nutrients back to baby.

The concept isn't a new one. In fact, this new research was done by The Cochrane Library, which poured over 15 different existing studies of 3,911 women and their babies, and drew its conclusions based on an analysis of available data.

So how come we ever clamped early in the first place? Apparently, the 50-year-old practice was put into place to prevent any kind of maternal hemorrhaging—something that was thought to pose a threat, but that researchers didn't find much evidence to support, upon reinvestigation.

Want to learn more about what goes on in those first few minutes of life? Watch Dr. Alan Greene's fascinating TED talk on the subject:

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