The magic of umbilical cords
Updated: Jan 6, 2022
I could look at pictures of these things all day. The strange, almost science-fiction appearance of umbilical cords fascinates me. And on another level it delights me to remember that this is something that we all have in common. As sophisticated as some of us believe we might be, we all have funny belly buttons. We all got here the same way.
After birth, the umbilical cord is cut and often not given a second thought in our culture. But they are amazing and truly deserve more credit. They are the life line that nourishes your baby and keeps them safe in the womb. The umbilical cord contains arteries and veins and is responsible for passing nutrients and eliminating waste from the fetus.
Umbilical cords are also filled with a substance called Whartons Jelly. This functions very effectively to protect the cord from kinks and restrictions. Babies can be wiggly, wild things and it's not uncommon for them to be born with the cord around a limb or the neck. While this can seem alarming, it's more common than you might think. Research shows the cord is wrapped around the neck about 30% of the time and rarely causes complications. That squishy substance inside keeps the cord from getting too tight. During the birth the care provider simply unloops the neck at birth without a second thought. In many cases you may not even know this happened.
Here's me cutting my third babys cord myself. By the time we had our third kid, my husband felt comfortable saying no thanks this part. It gives him the heeby jeebies. I was surprised by how strong the cord was, it was hard for me. Also, I am not right-handed. ha
Pregnancy can be filled with lots of worries and many parents to be have some level of fear regarding this type of situation. It's a totally normal worry and something you have no control over. But be assured that the design of the umbilical cord is truly amazing; as long as a cord is healthy and intact, a knot is not usually a concern. Babies don't breathe using their mouths or necks until after they have been born. (This is also why giving birth in the water is safe, the baby doesn't need to breathe underwater because it receives oxygen through the placenta. How cool!)
Did you know that delaying cutting the umbilical cord can increase the blood supply of your baby and boosts their iron stores up to six months after birth? Technically, all of the blood in the umbilical cord and placenta, BELONGS TO THE BABY. So it makes sense to wait until the umbilical cord has transferred most of the blood. All it takes is a few minutes, but you may request longer if that's your preference. When the baby is first born the cord is thick, curled, colorful and pulsating.
Watch for the change in the color and diameter before you cut. After just a few minutes the cord is much smaller
What have you heard about umbilical cords? Did your baby have a cord looped around them? Personally, the most I have ever seen was 4 loops. The midwife just kept unwrapping and unwrapping. It was amazing. Baby was totally healthy.