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8 Fascinating Umbilical Cord Facts

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8 Fascinating Umbilical Cord Facts

Aug 7, 2023
An umbilical cord on top of towels with the text "8 Fascinating Umbilical Cord Facts"

During every pregnancy, a mama’s body does incredible things. Perhaps one of the most marvelous things that takes place is inside the mama’s womb, a few unique organs grow as the baby grows. One of these organs is the placenta, which transfers nutrients from mama to her baby, and another is the umbilical cord, which connects the baby to the placenta.  

The umbilical cord is an essential life support system for developing fetuses inside the womb. 

It is a long, flexible tube-like structure that is vital for providing nutrients and oxygen to facilitate growth and development. This fascinating organ is crucial in fetal development, and its perfect functioning is critical for the health of both mother and child. 

In this article, we will explore eight fascinating facts about the umbilical cord, from its composition to its regenerative properties. 

Exploring the Intriguing Facts of the Umbilical Cord

Fact 1: Blood Vessels 

The umbilical cord is a very important organ for both mama and baby. It connects the developing fetus to the placenta during pregnancy. Blood vessels play a crucial role in the function of this organ. There are two types of blood vessels present in the umbilical cord: arteries and veins. 

The umbilical arteries transport deoxygenated blood from the fetus to the placenta. The placenta is responsible for filtering out waste, like carbon dioxide, and ensuring that oxygen and nutrients are provided to the developing fetus. The umbilical veins then carry oxygen-rich blood back to the fetus. 

These blood vessels work in unison to provide vital support to the developing fetus. It is through these vessels that nutrients and oxygen are transferred from the placenta to the fetus. In doing so, the umbilical cord ensures that the fetus receives the necessary nourishment to grow and develop in the womb. 

After birth, many mamas choose placenta encapsulation. This blog tells you the benefits of placenta encapsulation! 


Fact 2: Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cells 

Umbilical cord stem cells are of great interest to many doctors and scientists. One type of these cells, known as mesenchymal stem cells, can change into different types of cells, including tendons, nerves, bones, and skin. This allows scientists to rebuild various parts of the human body. 

Cord blood stem cells are currently being used to treat major illnesses such as leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and thalassemia. More than 7000 clinical trials are currently underway using cord blood stem cells to treat diseases like cerebral palsy, autism, and Type 1 diabetes. 

They are collected after a baby is born and the cord is clamped and cut, and not taken from embryos or fetuses. This is just another testament to the power inside every mama as she grows her baby. 


Fact 3: Nuchal Cord & Cord Clamping 

During birth, the baby's umbilical cord can sometimes become wrapped around its neck, a condition known as nuchal cord. While the nuchal cord usually does not cause any harm, in rare cases, it can lead to oxygen deprivation and emergency intervention during birth. This can pose a serious threat to babies. 

Delayed cord clamping can provide numerous benefits to the baby, including increased iron levels, better blood pressure regulation, and improved neurodevelopmental outcomes. Delayed cord clamping involves waiting for a few minutes after the baby is delivered before clamping the umbilical cord. This allows more blood to be transferred from the placenta to the baby, increasing the baby's iron stores, which can help prevent anemia in the first year of life. 


Fact 4: Banking & Storing Cord Blood 

Cord blood banking is a process that many mamas and their partners consider. This is where the blood from a newborn's umbilical cord is collected and stored for future use. The decision to bank cord blood is a personal one, but some parents choose to do so as a potential source of stem cells for regenerative medicine or treatments for certain diseases such as leukemia or sickle cell anemia. 

The collection of cord blood is a safe and painless process that occurs after the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut. The blood is drawn from the cord using a sterile needle and collected into a special bag. The collection process usually takes around 10 minutes and can be done by the medical staff or a private cord blood banking company. 


Fact 5: The Cord Stops Working When Needed 

The umbilical cord serves as the lifeline between the mother and fetus, providing oxygen and nutrients from mama to her developing baby. However, the cord stops working when the baby is born and takes its first breath. At this point, the cord is clamped and cut. This process ensures that the baby receives all of the blood it needs while still inside the womb, and that mama and baby are both healthy. 


Fact 6: Origin of the Umbilical Cord 

The umbilical cord is a vital connection between a pregnant mama and her growing baby. It forms shortly after fertilization and is composed of embryonic tissue that gives rise to blood vessels. The umbilical cord is made up of three separate connections from mama to baby: two arteries and one vein. These connections are encased in a gelatinous substance called Wharton's Jelly, which provides protection and support for the cord. 


Fact 7: Umbilical Cord Health Matters 

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby. It also eliminates waste products from the growing fetus. Proper umbilical cord health is crucial during pregnancy as it greatly influences the health of the developing baby. 

Proper cord care practices, after birth,  include keeping the stump clean and dry, avoiding submerging it in water, and letting it heal naturally can promote optimal healing. Parents should be careful not to pull or tug on the cord, which can increase the risk of umbilical cord prolapse or infection. This is important for mamas to know as umbilical cord health is not often focused on before birth. 


Fact 8: Cord Length Varies (A Lot) 

The length of umbilical cords can vary greatly among babies. While the average length is between 20-24 inches, some babies can have cords up to 118 inches long, while others have no cord at all due to a condition known as achorida. Cord length is known to be influenced by several factors, such as the baby's size, the amount of amniotic fluid, and the position of the fetus in the womb. 

Cords with a length of less than 12 inches are considered short, which can sometimes cause complications during birth. On the other hand, cords greater than 40 inches are considered long and can sometimes lead to prolapse or entanglement. Interestingly, the length of the cord is thought to play a role in determining the baby's birth weight, with longer cords potentially leading to larger newborns. 


A More Holistic Pregnancy with Stork Helpers 

The umbilical cord is one of the most fascinating organs unique to pregnancy. It is responsible for transferring nutrients from the placenta to the growing baby. It also serves as the connection between mama and her baby during pregnancy. And because of that, it is a beloved and sometimes cherished organ that some mamas keep after birth. 

How does a doula help during a homebirth? Find out in this blog post! 

At Stork Helpers, we understand that pregnancy is one of the most significant times in a mother's life. We are here to help you have the pregnancy you deserve. That starts with education and continues with 24/7 support from a doula who has been there and done that. 

Stork Helpers is here for you! Click here to reach out today! 

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