What Do You Know About Umbilical Cords?

Newborn baby
What do you know about umbilical cords?

The umbilical cord is the connection between your baby and your placenta. It contains one vein, which brings nutrients and oxygen from you to your baby, and two arteries, which carry waste products from your baby back to you. (I know that, for you science-lovers, this seems counterintuitive—arteries usually carry the oxygenated blood. The baby is our reference point, which is why it seems backwards. Just remember, veins bring to the heart and arteries carry away from the heart, regardless of blood oxygenation.)

When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is still functional for a few minutes (about five minutes in a water birth, and up to about three minutes in other births). Until the cord stops pulsing, blood and oxygen are still being pumped back and forth. This is important to note when you are thinking about clamping and cutting the cord. Babies whose umbilical cords are clamped immediately after birth are at a higher risk for anemia that babies whose cords are allowed to stop pulsing before they are cut.

This is because iron (and oxygen) is carried on red blood cells, and the longer you allow the cord to transfer blood, the better the baby will be prepared to carry iron and oxygen to vital tissues. Again, the more blood the baby has, the more iron he or she can carry. It has been shown that babies who have a delayed cord-clamp have up to one third (1/3!) more blood than babies who have an immediate cord-clamp.

Now, if you clamped your child’s cord immediately, don’t feel guilty—the body makes more blood cells all the time. It just is nice for the baby’s body to start with the full set.

Delayed clamping can raise the baby’s risk of jaundice, so you should be aware of the signs of jaundice and understand the treatments for it. Jaundice can occur in all babies, so it is beneficial to know about the signs before birth, even if you are not planning on delaying the cord-clamping.

This post was inspired by the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), who recently changed their recommendations for cord-clamping. They now endorse delaying cord-clamping by at least a minute after birth.

I hope you found this post informative and beneficial, as you figure out what you want from your birth experience!


(Helpful hint for brand new bellybuttons — our bacteria-fighting diaper rash cream is super gentle to aid the process!)

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