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The Umbilical cord: A common myth and its truth

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Umbilical cords are a source of anxiety and mystery for some expectant parents. Its role is fundamental, yet it’s often surrounded by myths and misconceptions that may lead to unnecessary concern. By understanding the umbilical cord’s essential functions, addressing common myths, and discussing how potential complications are managed through a clear, research-based perspective, we hope to offer reassurance and a deeper understanding.


The Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord is more than just a physical connection between the birthing parent and baby; it’s a lifeline that plays a critical role in the development of the fetus. 

Anatomy of the Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord’s structure is complex, but essential for fetal development. It is made up of two arteries, one vein and a jelly-like substance. Wharton’s jelly

Wharton’s jelly is vital for protecting the blood vessels within the umbilical cord from compression, pressure and potential injury which is especially important during fetal movements. While the cells within Wharton’s jelly contribute to the cord’s ability to resist bending and stretching, ensuring a continuous flow of blood and nutrients to your baby.

Nuchal Cords: What you need to know

The presence of a Nuchal cord, where the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck. This phenomenon is not as dangerous as it might seem.

According to Dr. Robyn Horsager-BoehrerNuchal cords can be found in around 30% of pregnancies. Nuchal cords are often detected by routine ultrasounds, and they rarely cause complications. The fluid within the umbilical cord, combined with the protective coating of Wharton’s jelly, generally prevents the cord from exerting pressure on the baby’s neck. In most cases, the cord simply slips over the baby’s head or shoulders during delivery, causing no harm. The presence of a cord nuchal is not an indicator of fetal distress. Many babies with nuchal cords have normal heart rates throughout labor and delivery.

It’s natural for expectant parents to worry about their unborn child’s health, particularly concerning the umbilical cord. In order to manage potential umbilical complications, such as nuchal cords and other problems, it is important to monitor the situation, including performing daily kick counts in the third trimester, and seeking informed healthcare advice when necessary. This ensures the safety of both the mother and the child.

Regular prenatal examinations are essential for monitoring the health and condition of the umbilical artery. These checkups allow healthcare providers to identify potential complications early.

I’d like to share with those who are interested an article by Dr. Rachel Reed, a midwife.Nuchal Cords – the perfect scapegoatHere is a small sample to whet your appetite. 

“The nuchal cord has become the perfect scapegoat because it lays blame with the mother/baby rather than the care provider/system. Our culture has become averse to nuchal cords. Every time I read about an unexpected birth that took place outside of a hospital, it always involves a nuchal chord. The story talks about how lucky the child was to have survived the dangers of the nuchal cord, away from experts who could manage such a complication. I’ve heard too many birth tales where complications were unfairly attributed to the presence of a cord. READ MORE


How common are umbilical cord problems?

The occurrence of serious complications from umbilical cord issues, such as nuchal cords and knots, is relatively rare. Most problems with the umbilical chord are detected early in routine prenatal care. They are then managed without any significant intervention.

How can I prevent the accidental tearing of my umbilical cord during pregnancy?

There is no way to prevent accidents involving the umbilical chord. However, maintaining regular prenatal appointments allows for the monitoring of the baby’s growth and the umbilical cord’s health, enabling early detection and management of any potential issues.

Should I be concerned about the umbilical cord?

While concern is natural, it’s important to remember that significant umbilical cord problems are rare. It is important to stay informed and maintain open communication with your healthcare provider in order to address concerns.

How Do I Know if My Umbilical Cord is Around My Baby’s Neck?

Ultrasound is the most reliable method for detecting if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck. Healthcare providers typically identify such cases during routine prenatal scans and monitor them closely to ensure the baby’s well-being.


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