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Surprising facts about the umbilical cord around the babies neck…



A nuchal cord (cord around the neck) is one of many things that mothers-to-be fear about childbirth. The thought of their precious baby being ‘strangled’ by their umbilical cord can cause so much worry.

:: Luckily, unborn babies get nutrients and oxygen via the umbilical cord, not by breathing it in through their nose and mouth, which may eliminate some fear right there. They don’t need their neck to breathe.::

This is one of the many reasons why it’s important to leave a baby’s umbilical cord intact (uncut) for at least 2 minutes after the birth, because it’s the life support system for the baby until his head is born. It’s the very same reason why babies don’t drown during a water birth, because they have an oxygen supply already attached, and don’t take their first breath until they are stimulated by air. Here are some interesting facts about nuchal cords that every mother-to-be and father-to-be must know before they give birth…


1. Up To One Third Of Babies Are Born With The Umbilical Cord Around The Neck

It’s common to hear stories of babies being born with the cord wrapped around their neck – and the reason for that is because it’s quite common! Some doctors and midwives don’t even mention it during childbirth, because they tend to loop the cord over the baby’s head when he or she is crowning, and it’s no big deal. Ideally the cord should be left alone during the birth .

Studies report figures of up to one third of babies being born with a cord around their neck – thats 1 in 3 babies, which is the same number of babies born by caesarean section in Australia and the United States. Hardly a rare event.

Cords come in a range of lengths, and in this study, cord length ranged from 19 to 133 centimetres. However, the average umbilical cord length is around 50-60 centimetres long.

The above study stated: “In this study, the long umbilical cords seemed to be associated with the increased rate of multiple nuchal cords and true umbilical knots…however long umbilical cords did not contribute to adverse perinatal outcomes by themselves. In theory, fetal movement produces a tension on the cord that creates ample free length for delivery plus the length of the wrapped cord. Although an entangled cord may be at risk for intermittent or partial occlusion [blockage] of umbilical blood flow as previously reported, the excessively long cord may have self-protective effects to protect the fetuses from the risk of decreasing umbilical blood flow.”

"All 3 of my babies had the cord wrapped around their necks even wrapped twice around 2 of them> — Jessica, BellyBelly Fan


2. A Healthy Umbilical Cord Is Protected By A Slippery, Soft Coating

The human body is ever surprising with its clever design, which has been built to ensure our survival as a species. Even the umbilical cord has it’s party tricks!

A normal, healthy umbilical cord is and thickly coated in Wharton’s jelly, a soft, gelatinous substance which protects the blood vessels inside the cord. This substance makes the cord slippery, protecting the cord against compression as a result of the baby’s normal movements.

If a medical condition was impacting on the amount of Wharton’s jelly around the cord, then perhaps this may cause complications. However, the umbilical cord is carefully designed for uterine life.

“My first baby had the cord around her neck, her waist and her ankle. The midwife didn’t remember the last time she saw a cord that long!” — Anna, BellyBelly Fan

3. A Nuchal Cord Does Not Get Tighter As Labor Progresses

In her fantastic article Nuchal Cords: The Perfect Scapegoat, midwife and lecturer Rachel Reed explains:

“The baby is not ‘held up’ by the cord because the whole package – fundus (top of the uterus), placenta and cord are all moving down together. The uterus ‘shrinks’ down (contracts) moving the baby downwards, along with their attached placenta and cord. It is not until the baby’s head moves into the vagina, that a few extra centimetres of additional length are required.


4. A Cord Around The Neck Is Not Associated With Adverse Outcomes

This may be hard to believe or hear, especially if you’ve lost a baby and his or her cord happened to be wrapped around the neck. Understandably you want answers. However, several studies have reported that a cord around the neck is unlikely to be the main cause for adverse outcomes.

“My baby boy has it wrapped around his neck 2 times. I freaked at first when my dr told us but I fed off his calmness which helped me settle down. Figured if he wasn’t panicked I shouldn’t be.” — Robin, BellyBelly Fan


So….relax….trust your body and your amazing baby


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