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All About Umbilical Cords

A cord immediately after birth.

A cord immediately after birth.

If you’ve had a child, or been at the birth of a child you’ve likely seen an umbilical cord. It’s the twisty pathway of blood and nutrients from the baby to the placenta, and is a vital part of fetal development. It’s made up of two arteries and one vein, surrounded by Wharton’s Jelly. // Fun fact: Wharton’s Jelly is also present in our eyeballs! // Umbilical cords are typically the same length as a fetus, with an average of around 20 inches long in a full term baby.

Quickly after birth, the cord will lose color and stop pulsing.

Quickly after birth, the cord will lose color and stop pulsing.

While we clamp and cut it ourselves (and often celebrate this moment), did you know that after birth the blood vessels naturally constrict causing the Wharton’s Jelly to swell and collapse in response to the temperature change, creating a natural clamp?

This thick twisty cord is amazing!

This thick twisty cord is amazing!

The WHO recommends delaying clamping at a minimum of 1 minute after birth in a normal healthy infant. This allows blood stored in the cord and placenta to finish transferring to the infant. If you watch, a cord will change from thick, dark blue and pulsing to floppy and white within a few minutes following birth. It’s been shown that delayed cord clamping decreases the risk of anemia with newborns, and the ACOG has stated that many other benefits from delayed cord clamping can include improved transitional circulation, higher red blood cell count, and decreased need for blood transfusions. These benefits have been shown to last for up to the first four years in a child’s life following a delayed clamping of three minutes or more.

Checking her baby’s umbilical cord to note the changes in color and thickness.

Checking her baby’s umbilical cord to note the changes in color and thickness.

Have you delayed cord clamping? I’d love to hear your experiences! With my third baby (homebirth Vbac) we delayed a few minutes, but it was such a whirl I barely remember it. Thankfully I have photos to remember it by.

Cutting a cord that is no longer pulsing, after delaying for a few minutes.

Cutting a cord that is no longer pulsing, after delaying for a few minutes.

Before cutting my baby’s cord. Photograph by Lydia Stuemke www.lydiastuemke.com

Before cutting my baby’s cord. Photograph by Lydia Stuemke www.lydiastuemke.com