The embryonic cells develops into the yolk sac, from which the umbilical cord develops. This organ is like the baby’s “lifeline” as this is how the mother’s nutrients are delivered to the embryo.
Nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the baby are transported through three vessels. A vein transports nutrient-filled, oxygen-rich blood to the foetus while two arteries carry nutrient-depleted blood away from the baby to the placenta.
When the umbilical cord is cut, this is a significant moment as it signals that baby is ready to begin life on his or her own. Read on to learn more fascinating facts about the umbilical cord.
#1. It starts growing when the foetus is 1 month old
The umbilical cord begins to grow at around 4 weeks of pregnancy, says Dr Liana Koe of STO+G Practice, when the embryo is just forming. This tube, which connects the placenta to the foetus, provides nutrients from the mother’s blood circulation to the growing baby. It is initially short and thick but becomes longer as the foetus develops.
Umbilical cord knots are seen in mothers of advanced age, an increased number of births, diabetes or excess amniotic fluid, and who are carrying a smaller baby.
#2. It can grow to up to 120cm
By the time a baby is full term, the average length of the umbilical cord is typically 50 to 60cm. Dr Koe notes, “But cord length can vary. Studies have shown that 5 per cent of umbilical cords can grow longer than 80cm, with some hitting up to 120cm. Meanwhile, 5 per cent of umbilical cords are shorter than 35cm.”
#3. Umbilical cord knots are rare
Though it happens in only 1 per cent or less of pregnancies, there are risk factors, Dr Koe points out. This includes mothers of advanced age, an increased number of births, diabetes or excess amniotic fluid, and who are carrying a smaller baby.
#4. But these are more likely to happen in longer umbilical cords
Knots do not necessarily pose a danger to the foetus. Citing a Japanese study, Dr Koe explains that the danger is lessened if the knot is found in a longer cord than in a short cord.
#5. Possible reasons for longer-than-usual umbilical cords
#6. It lets the foetus practise different movements
This includes stretching its fingers and toes. Dr Koe says movements in the womb increase if the umbilical cord is longer. Excessive movements can increase the risk of cord twisting, knots and entanglement, which can affect blood supply to the baby during labour. However, this doesn’t usually happen since the cord is protected against external compression by Wharton’s jelly. This clear mucous substance keeps the cord soft and protects the blood vessels, allowing blood to continue flowing even when it is knotted.
#7. It doesn’t affect the shape (innie or outie) of baby’s belly button
Dr Koe explains that the belly button’s form is determined by what happens after the umbilical cord is cut. “The body heals at where the cord was attached and forms a scar (the umbilicus or belly button), and the remnant of the cord falls off, revealing the belly button. Hence, an innie or outie is determined by how your scar is formed.”
The shape of the belly button will change over time because the layers of muscle change. For example, women get outies when they are pregnant because their bellies stretch!
“The body heals at where the cord was attached and forms a scar (the umbilicus or belly button), and the remnant of the cord falls off, revealing the belly button. Hence, an innie or outie is determined by how your scar is formed.”
#8. Delayed cord clamping offers baby more health benefits
Delayed cord clamping refers to clamping the umbilical cord at least 30 to 60 seconds after birth. This increases blood flow to the baby, resulting in higher levels of iron and is said to boost cognitive development, too. Note, however, it might also increase the risk of jaundice, Dr Koe states. Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells break down, giving rise to the yellowish look associated with jaundice. Phototherapy can eliminate the excess bilirubin.
#9. The stump will fall off about 1 to 4 weeks following the birth
To hasten healing and prevent infection, it’s important to keep the cord stump clean and dry after baby is born. To keep the area dry, clean with an alcohol swab gently after a bath. Redness is common and can resolve after cleaning. However, check with your baby’s doctor if you notice any yellow or smelly discharge.
#10. It can save your baby’s or their sibling’s life
Dr Koe notes that cord blood is rich in stem cells, which can be retrieved and developed into different types of blood cells to treat various diseases such as leukaemia, lymphoma, as well as immune and metabolic disorders. That’s why many parents opt to store baby’s cord blood.
Singapore has both public and private cord blood banking. The Singapore Cord Blood Bank, the country’s only public cord blood facility, is free ― it accepts cord blood donations that all patients can access. However, if you bank bubba’s cord blood with a private facility, only you, your child, and other members of the family will access your baby’s cord blood. Tis service costs between $4,000 and $7,500.
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