Obstetrics: Cutting the Cord Too Soon

The lungs of most newborn infants begin to work exactly on schedule. But among some babies, particularly the premature, the lungs fail to expand properly. The chest sags, breathing is rapid and the child turns blue. Many deaths during the first week after birth are attributable to this condition, which doctors describe as the "respiratory distress syndrome."

Obstetricians have long noted that babies suffering from such troubles either were delivered by Caesarean section, or were premature infants, or born of diabetic mothers. But in the A.M.A. Journal, a group of pediatricians* from the University of California suggests that the most important...

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