Umbilical Cord info for the health of your baby
What is the umbilical cord?
The umbilical cord is a flexible tube that runs between the growing foetus and the placenta. It connects the two and allows blood and nutrients to flow between mother and baby through the single vein that it contains. The cord grows from the yolk sac as the foetus develops; without it the baby cannot receive what it needs to live and thrive.
What is the function of the umbilical cord?
The vein in the umbilical cord carries blood, nutrients and oxygen to the growing foetus, providing what it needs to grow into a healthy baby. There are two arteries in the cord that take deoxygenated blood away from the foetus and remove waste products; and during the last stages of pregnancy, the foetus also receives important antibodies from the placenta via the cord which protect against infection.
What is an umbilical cord prolapse?
An umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the cord emerges from the vagina before the baby. This has been found to occur in up to 1% of pregnancies, with risks increasing with male and breech babies and multiple pregnancies. Pressure is put on the cord as the baby tries to come out, which in turn can cause oxygen deprivation; it is usually dealt with as quickly as possible.
Why is the umbilical cord cut?
Because the umbilical cord contains a vein and arteries that conduct the flow of blood from the mother to the baby, the cord itself will be cut at some point soon after the birth in order to stop the flow of blood and safely detach the baby from the placenta, which will usually still be inside the mother.
Umbilical cord care
For approximately three to four weeks after the baby is born, it is important to look after the umbilical cord stump properly by keeping the area clean and dry; this is to prevent infection and should continue until the belly button has completely healed.
Umbilical cord blood
Not only does the blood in the umbilical cord help a baby to live and grow whilst in the womb, but it contains a large number of important stem cells that have been shown to help cure a variety of life-threatening diseases. The blood that is left in the cord and placenta can be donated or used to help a relative get better.