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7 Facts about Umbilical Cords

The umbilical cord doesn’t get much notice, does it? If anything, it just gets a few minutes of fame after birth, after which it is forgotten like yesterday’s news. Most people are well-aware of what the umbilical cord is. For those who don’t know, it is a slipper looking cord that connects a baby to the placenta all through the pregnancy. Through the umbilical cord, the placenta is able to pass nutrients and waste between mother and baby.

Some people know the umbilical cord has three vessels, and one of the best things to be done after birth is to leave the umbilical cord intact after birth until it stops pulsating on its own. However, not many people know much about umbilical cord beyond that and have no idea how amazing this cord really is. With that, there are many amazing things that you should know about an umbilical cord to fully appreciate its worth and how helpful it is for a pregnancy.

Remember, the umbilical cord is what connects you to your baby during pregnancy and delivers all the necessary nutrients to him. Here are 7 facts that you should definitely know about umbilical cords:

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7 An umbilical cord can get tangled – and it can have knots and loops

When your baby is small enough to move around freely in the womb, he is often going to do away with his boredom by playing loop the loop with the umbilical cord. It is for this reason that nearly 35% of babies are born with their cords wrapped around their necks – and about 1% of all babies have truly knotted umbilical cords. However, there isn’t much for you to be worried about considering that as long as the cord is intact and healthy, any tangles and loops aren’t usually going to affect its functioning. For the record, an umbilical cord is packed full of a clear mucous substance known as ‘Wharton’s Jelly’ , which is meant to protect the blood vessels inside from getting constricted by knots or loops.

As the umbilical cord continues to grow, it basically coils into the shape of a spring. Just so you know, only about 5% of normal cords don’t do this, and there are far more left twists as compared to right twists. The umbilical basically resembles a white, twisted telephone cord and continues to grow with your baby. By the time your baby is delivered, the cord is going to be about 2 feet long.

Stop worrying

A majority of parents these days continue to worry rather unnecessarily about the umbilical cord getting knotted. The fact of the matter is that most babies end up doing the weirdest of somersaults in the womb, and even wave their umbilical cords around like jump ropes – that too without harming themselves or the cords. The only time that a true cord knot can occur is in case your baby passes through a loop of umbilical cord.

6 There’s a slippery soft coating on umbilical cords

I’ll be honest here, when I read about the human body, its wonders truly leave me amazed. It has such a clever design that has been built to ensure our survival - and even the umbilical cord comes with its pack of tricks to leave us in awe.

Every normal, healthy umbilical cord is thickly coated by a substance known as Wharton’s Jelly. To clear things out, it is basically a soft, gelatinous substance that is meant to offer protection to the blood vessels found inside the cord. The cord basically becomes rather slippery because of this substance, which further protects it against compression triggered by the baby’s movements. The one time that you should be concerned about things is when a medical condition arises and impacts the amount of Wharton’s Jelly around the cord. This can lead to severe complication even though the umbilical cord has particularly been designed for uterine life.

Can the umbilical cord strangle my baby?

Want an outright answer? No it can’t – it can’t strangle a baby who is not using his lungs to breathe until AFTER his birth. The umbilical cord provides much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the baby and also assists in removing waste till the cord stops pulsating after birth. If anything, it serves as a lifeline to the baby all through the pregnancy. It is responsible for transporting nutrients to the baby and even carries away the baby’s waste products. No matter its function, you can rest-assured that it isn’t going to strangle your precious little bundle of joy in the womb.

5 Nearly one third of babies are born with the umbilical cord around their neck

It is rather common for people to hear stories of babies being born with the cord wrapped around their neck. The simple reason for this occurrence is that it IS fairly common. Believe it or not, but at times doctors and midwives don’t even mention it during childbirth to the mother or her birthing partner. At times doctors even loop the cord over the baby’s head while he is crowning and to be honest, it really isn’t much of a big deal. However, in an ideal situation, the cord should be left completely alone during the birth.

Research studies have shown that about one third of all babies are born with the umbilical cord twisted around their neck. This makes it nearly 1 in 4 babies, which is around the same number of babies delivered by C-section in the United States and Australia – not really a ‘rare’ event, is it? In the same study that suggested this outcome, it was found that cords come in a variety of lengths. In this particular study, the cord lengths ranged between 19 to 133 centimeters although the average umbilical cord length was found to be 50-60 centimeters long.

Is cord length associated with increased cases of knots and loops?

Yes. Research studies suggest that long umbilical cords are typically associated with an increased rate of umbilical cord knots and loops around the neck. However, the one thing that you need to bear in mind is that long umbilical cords by no means contribute to adverse prenatal outcomes by themselves. So honestly speaking, there isn’t much for you to be worried about in terms of the umbilical cord getting knotted or looped around your baby’s neck.

4 The cord is never going to let your blood and your baby’s blood mix

Your placenta is basically responsible for transferring material for you to the baby, and from your baby to you. All that separates your baby’s blood vessels and yours is a very tiny layer that is just two-cells thick. But even with that, it is entirely possible for you and your baby to have completely different blood types – this is the wonder of the great umbilical cord.

In the third trimester of your pregnancy, your baby is going to receive about half a liter of blood every minute through the umbilical cord. But you should know that even with your blood being transported to your baby, it is never going to mix with his blood. Basically all the nutrients, waste and oxygen is exchanged within the placenta. The umbilical cord is made up of two arteries that are responsible for carrying blood that contains waste material from the baby to the placenta. It has one other vein too that carries oxygen and nutrients back to the baby. The blood contained within the arteries is known to carry waste products including carbon dioxide from your baby’s metabolism. The carbon dioxide is transferred to the placenta, which sends it to your blood stream and then to your lungs for you to breathe out. The red blood cells in your circulation carry oxygen across the placenta to your baby through the umbilical vein. This particular vein is also known to transport nutrients from the placenta to your baby.

Your baby is free to move around

The umbilical has a peculiar spring like shape that makes it possible for your baby to move around freely in the womb. This coiling pattern basically establishes itself by week nine and is formulated in the counterclockwise direction.

3 You can donate your umbilical cord

This fact about umbilical cords is truly amazing. The blood that is found in the umbilical cord is very rich in stem cells and has the potential to assist in curing diseases. However, in order to donate your umbilical cord, it is necessary for you to fill in a consent form before labor starts.

All of us have heard about cord blood stem cells, but umbilical cord tissue is the latest research phenomenon these days. For those who don’t know, umbilical cord tissue basically contains stem cells that have the ability to regenerate and transform into various types of cells such as muscle, cartilage, fat and bone. What this means is that cord tissue has the potential to treat far more health conditions as compared to cord blood stem cells. At the moment, research studies are focused on the ways in which cord stem cells can be used in the treatment of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and asthma. Every single type of cell found in the umbilical cord tissue has different potential uses, which goes on to show how amazing and beneficial the cord really is.

You can store your baby’s cord tissue

That’s right. Considering the fact that cord tissue research is still in the earliest of stages, it is possible for you to have your baby’s cord tissue stored ‘whole’. As it is stored whole, you can rest-assured that all of the cells within it will be preserved for your family’s potential future use. Using the best technology of the future, the cord can be processed to extract the required cells in times to come.

2 Cord health is important – and it matters

It is crucial for a healthy umbilical system to be maintained to make sure that your baby receives all the right nutrients required for him to grow and thrive. However, what needs to be mentioned here is the fact that maternal health complications and problems with nutrition have the potential to impact the development of the placenta and umbilical cord. Things like smoking, poor nutrition, obesity and exposure to chemicals have an affect on the overall development of the umbilical system.

Experts claim that they are noticing an increase in umbilical cord deformities. They believe that these deformities are typically being caused due to GMOs and the other triggers mentioned above. Just so you know, a recent research study found that toxins used to kill pests found in GMO foods were found in the blood of nearly 93% of pregnant women and 80% of umbilical cords. This goes on to show how harmful these things can be and how they can trigger umbilical cord deformities.

What else should I know about the umbilical cord?

The umbilical cord is fully formed around the fifth week of pregnancy. It enters the fetus through the abdomen and then forms two branches. One of the branches joins with the hepatic portal vein found in the liver, whereas the other connects to the heart. On the whole, both these branches form a bit of a circuit in the baby’s body and reconnect to the umbilical cord. At times, the umbilical cord may not form properly, which may lead to problems during the pregnancy and at times even during birth.

1 The umbilical cord holds cultural significance

In Western cultures, the significance of the umbilical cord is related mainly to the father or the partner that cuts the cord once the baby is born. It basically symbolizes the ‘breaking of the bond’ shared by the mother and her baby. In a number of other cultures, the cord is preserved and this preservation is meant to celebrate the role played by the cord in nourishing the baby all through the pregnancy. Just so you know, mothers in Japan are known to keep their children’s dried umbilical cords preserved in a special wooden box created specifically for this purpose.

Most of the Native American tribes are also known to take steps to cherish the umbilical cord and celebrate its greatness. In some tribes, babies are presented with a part of their dried cord in a beaded pouch, which they have to wear all through their lives. On the other hand, parents in Turkey are required to bury the umbilical cord in a place of knowledge so that their baby’s future career can be influenced and shaped. However, new mothers in Western cultures are highly interested in the trend of placenta encapsulation and also want their baby’s cord to be preserved as a keepsake. The cord is typically dried while dehydrating the placenta and returned to the mothers in a special box.

The trend of delayed cord clamping

This trend is also gaining immense popularity due to the benefits that it is believed to offer to the baby. Research studies suggest that delayed cord clamping can assist in increasing blood and iron levels in new born babies.

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