Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How Difficult is Medical Research? Not Very Difficult in Some Cases

Why Wasn’t This Already Known?

[Editor’s note:  The Dismal Political Economist will be experiencing the birth of a child (well indirectly as male pregnancy is not yet possible) and expects to advise the delivery team to wait at least three minutes before cutting the umbilical cord.  He also expects upon making this request. to be kicked out of the delivery room and be told to quit advising the experts]

We talk about cutting the umbilical cord all the time, but rarely do we talk about literally cutting the umbilical cord.  Well  we should be talking about the umbilical cord and the presence of anemia in babies.  It turns out that if you just wait a few minutes to cut the cord, the probability that the baby will develop anemia is reduced substantially.

An unkind cut?

When these women came to term, their midwives followed one of two sets of instructions, chosen at random and given to them just before each birth. In 166 cases the newborns had their umbilical cords clamped within ten seconds of delivery. The other 168 had them clamped after at least three minutes had passed.

When the children were four months old, Dr Andersson re-examined them and took a blood sample. Those babies whose umbilical clamps had been applied after three minutes had, on average, iron levels 45% higher than those whose cords had been clamped immediately. Put another way, only 0.6% of them were anaemic, compared with 5.7% of the rapidly clamped.

Okay, that seems easy enough and hopefully the study will result in the practice of delaying clamping several minutes being implemented everywhere, as there does not seem to be any harm to the practice.

But the question remains as to why this is just now being understood.  Why haven’t all the billions of dollars spent on medical research discovered this.  Maybe that’s the problem, this type of study didn’t require high priced researchers and millions of dollars, so why do it?

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