If you’ve ever wondered what the umbilical cord is all about, here are some answers for you…
1. A baby with the cord wrapped around his or her neck is usually not in danger
When the umbilical cord is wrapped around a baby’s neck during childbirth, this is called a nuchal cord. Although it may be scary to see, we should remember that nuchal cords are common, and for most of whom it causes no problem. The umbilical cord can become wrapped around the baby's neck during pregnancy as the baby moves, or during labour as the baby rotates through the pelvis. The umbilical cord is perfectly designed to withstand being stretched and wrapped around the baby.
The cord can be as long as around 130cm, but an average cord is around 50-60cm.
2. The cord doesn’t contain nerve endings, so it doesn’t hurt when tied, clamped, or cut
A normal, healthy umbilical cord is filled with a substance called Wharton’s jelly. This is a soft, gelatinous substance which protects the blood vessels inside the cord, and it helps to protect the cord against compression as well as knots (which are very rare).
After birth, because the baby is now able to breathe through their lungs, eat, and empty their bladder and bowel independently, the cord becomes redundant. There are no nerve fibres in the cord, so once it’s tied, clamped or cut, you can be sure that your baby will not feel a thing!
3. The cord doesn’t actually need to be cut!
Believe it or not, you can decide to NOT cut the cord. Yes, that’s right. This is called a lotus birth. You can decide to leave the umbilical cord untied, unclamped and uncut after birth, so that the baby is left attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates at the umbilicus. This does mean that you need to carry the placenta around with the baby (after all they are still attached) – this of course brings some logistical implications. If you want to have a lotus birth, do thoroughly research this and discuss it with your birth professionals.
4. All you need to do is to keep it dry and clean
It’s important to keep it dry and clean, and therefore away from the content of the nappy, if at all possible. If it does get wet or dirty, don’t worry – just try and wipe it as gently as you can, being careful not to pull the skin and patting it dry with a clean cloth or towel. The stump should fall off on its own within 5 to 15 days and thanks to Mother Nature your baby will be left with a nice, clean belly button!
5. Remember that infections are rare, but do keep an eye out for any symptoms!
If you notice any redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness around the belly button, or a lot of discharge from it that is also foul smelling, you should get your baby checked by a health professional.