The umbilical cord: everything you need to know

The umbilical cord creates a magical union between the baby and the placenta and between mother and baby.

At birth there are various possibilities for managing the cord:

  • it is cut off after a few minutes by choosing to donate or keep the blood contained inside for yourself
  • they wait for the two hours of post-partum, time in which the mother and the baby are still in the delivery room before going to the ward (we talk about delayed cord cutting)
  • do not cut it and wait for it to dry by itself and generally after 4/5 days it comes off by itself. (mini lotus or full lotus ).

Find out about the practices of the hospital you have chosen where to give birth.

Remember that the cord stops pulsing after a different time for each child as each child is able to breathe and receive oxygen from his lungs with unequal times.

Brusquely clamping the cord just a few minutes after birth means making his first breath unpleasant because the air that enters his lungs creates burning sensation and his crying is justified.

Not immediately cutting the umbilical cord means giving a greater contribution of:

  • blood
  • oxygen
  • nourishment
  • kindness

Fears involving the umbilical cord

At the time of birth, one of the parents’ greatest fears is that the cord, which nourished the baby and was sucked throughout the pregnancy, could become dangerous by twisting around its neck, leading to dramatic consequences.

Know that many babies are born with twists of the cord, which midwives call “necklaces”. Nothing happens because this has a gelatinous substance that covers it which makes it soft and slippery and often makes it immune to compressions.
The cord can go several times around your child’s neck, body or foot.

In a study it was seen that the average number of turns around the neck is from 1 to 4 in 2.5-8.3% of deliveries.

0.1% of those born have more than 4 loops around the neck and the record is 9 loops.

How long is the umbilical cord?

A second fear is that the cord does not allow the baby to go down the birth canal and therefore be born because it is too short.

On average a cord is about 60cm long so that’s long enough for your baby to be delivered.

Once your baby is born and you choose to cut the cord immediately or after a few hours, you need to keep the cord dry and clean to avoid any infections.

This is because, by cutting the cord, a lesion is created and therefore an “open” tissue is brought into contact with the outside. In the hospital, or at home, the midwife who assisted you with the birth will give you instructions on what to do.

The dressing of the umbilical cord

The umbilical stump should be dressed at least once a day or at every diaper change if the gauze gets wet.

Get some gauze, an elastic net and arnica echinacea.

After changing the diaper, with clean and dry hands, clean the stump and the contour with the navel with a sterile gauze soaked in warm water. Pat dry and sprinkle arnica echinacea on top. Wrap the gauze around the stump and hold everything with the retina.

It is advisable to cut the diaper in a half-moon shape at the stump so as not to rub the fabric with it and to allow the skin to breathe and create mummification. Disposable diapers are not breathable.

The ideal would be to use cloth diapers.

When does the umbilical cord come off?

The cord falls off quite quickly, especially the uncut one. Once it takes on a blackish-brown color, it falls off at the latest 10 days after birth.

After the fall you can continue to clean the navel with plain water until no scabs are left. Your baby can be bathed even before he falls, just think that in the hospital, your baby, if you wish, is already washed so there is no reason not to do it in the following days as well.

Choose to wash it with warm water only or by adding rice/corn starch. Do not use soap, massage oil or hydrogen peroxide as it could burn.

If the area gets red, or you see pus, contact your midwife or pediatrician.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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