While you are pregnant, the umbilical cord is responsible for passing nutrients and blood from you to your baby. During the later stages of your pregnancy, the umbilical cord will pass on antibodies to your baby as well, which will strengthen your baby’s immune system and prepare him or her for birth.
The umbilical cord itself is attached to your placenta, and is connected to your baby through their stomach, which later becomes their belly button. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut off in a painless procedure, and the leftover stump will eventually dry up and fall off your baby usually between one and three weeks after birth.
When is the umbilical cord cut?
The umbilical cord is usually cut immediately following birth; however, new studies show that babies could benefit from having the umbilical cord connected for a longer period of time. According to evidence published in The Cochrane Library, babies who remain connected to their umbilical cords for longer periods of time following birth exhibit greater iron storage for between three and six months, a higher hemoglobin concentration, and a higher birth weight.
Despite these positive health findings, these babies also tended to require phototherapy to treat jaundice. In some cases, your OB-GYN may need to cut the umbilical cord earlier than intended if the cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck to avoid complications.
Who is allowed to cut the umbilical cord?
In most traditional birth settings, you or your partner are asked if you want to help clamp and cut the umbilical cord, but some OB-GYNs will take care of this procedure for you. If you or your partner are interested in cutting the umbilical cord, let your doctor know beforehand so they can make the necessary preparations.
Caring for your baby’s umbilical stump
Your baby’s umbilical stump should be kept clean and dry at all times. Up until the point it falls off, fold your baby’s diaper away from the stump so it can breathe and stay dry without coming into contact with urine. There is not a set time for the cord stump to fall off and it could happen days after or up to one month following birth. During the days and weeks before your baby’s stump falls off, give your baby sponge baths instead of tub baths to keep the stump dry, and dress your baby in loose clothing to allow for air circulation.
Never pull or tug at the umbilical cord stump, even if it looks as if it is about to fall off. Instead, allow the stump to fall off by itself naturally. At the time the stump falls off, you may see some blood on your baby’s diaper, which is normal and no reason for concern. In some cases, you may even see clear or yellow fluid, which is known as drainage, or “umbilical granulomas,” which will go away on their own in the hours following the stump’s removal.
In the event the area around the umbilical cord stump looks red, swollen, or has copious amounts of greenish foul-smelling discharge, you should contact or see your pediatrician as soon as possible.
CarePoint Health is dedicated to providing you with the individual care and attention you need so you can relax and focus on what is most important — the birth of your new baby. Contact us today to learn more about our obstetrics and maternity services.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.