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Umbilical cord facts: very durable!

Umbilical Cord Facts: Built for Durability

Here are some umbilical cord facts and how their significance towards you and your baby.

The umbilical cord is designed for durability and to cushion impact.

Looking at the cords of monozygotic monoamniotic-monochorionic twins (known as momo twins) is an extreme example of this durability. This type of twins are very rare because they occur when both babies develop from one egg, share a placenta and are inside both layers of the water bag, the amnion and chorion, together.

Momo twins account for only 1% of twin pregnancies.

Sharing space so intimately comes with risks to the babies because their cords can become entangled and compressed while they play together. Very close prenatal monitoring is required and the babies are usually brought into the world via cesarean at around 32weeks to avoid the risks associated with cord compression.

Here’s a look at some of the amazing cords that have been documented of jumbled umbilical cords of momo twins. Please note that both sets of twins were born alive and healthy!




Inside the Umbilical Cord: Wharton’s Jelly

These babies were able to survive this interweaving because of the whartons jelly; a gelatinous, fatty, slippery protection for the vein and two arteries of the umbilical cord that carry the nutrients. The wharton’s jelly helps protect the vessels against compression.

The reproductive system like all other systems of the body is very clever.

Familiarising ourselves with whartons jelly helps put into perspective the hysteria about cords with singleton babies sweeping the modern medical birth world.

I have heard stories from parents from all over the world who are continuously being warned by their care providers of the ‘dangers’ of umbilical cords during pregnancy and birth; as though they are something to be feared.

Cord around the neck
Short cord
Possibility of cord prolapse

As if the very anatomy which sustains our children is simultaneously seeking out their demise.

The Myth of Cord Around the Neck

Nearly 1 out of 3 babies are born with the cord about their necks (also know as Nuchal cord) and studies show it is not associated with adverse outcomes. It is normal. We can assume that the World Health Organisation is aware of this 1 out of 3 stat yet still it recommends rates of caesarean sections should be kept around 10% for best outcomes for mothers and babies.

If cord around the neck actually required routine caesareans surely WHO recommendation would have increased its recommendation to 33-34%.

Another perspective: Some midwives suggest around the neck could be the safest place for the cord; keeping it out of the way during labor.

Cord around the neck as a primary reason for scheduling a caesarean is a practice that is not based on any scientific proof and does not create better outcomes for mums and babies. If your Care Provider (CP) is scaring you then you might be with the wrong CP for you.

It is time for a paradigm shift! I wish for the day when practitioners stop scaring parents and projecting so much fear about normal physiology.

Don’t buy into the hype, the fear. 

Talk to your baby, talk to your body, trust your baby, trust your body.

They know what to do, find a CP how knows and respects the normal physiology of birth.

Cutting the Umbilical Cord

Parents are often surprised when they cut the umbilical cord after birth, it is tough! It takes some effort and several clips of the scissors to get through it. Even when we wait to cut until several hours after the birth, it is limp and lifeless with no remaining blood flow but still takes effort to cut.

These photos are of baby Abby being released from her placenta curtesy of The Unison Photo


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Photo credit: Unison Photo

Correct Timing for Cord Cutting 

Have a look at Abby cord. What do you notice about it?

It is white, limp, and lifeless. This is what the cord should look like when it is cut. If it is cut immediately when it is still juicy, pulsating and filled with life it means that baby won’t receive all her blood. These photos are taken about an hour after Abby’s birth.

The World Health Organisation recommends the cord is cut no sooner then 1-3 minutes after birth. In my opinion that is still too early because many cords continue to pulse for up to 20minutes. Many studies have been done over the years collecting a wealth of data showing the benefits of delayed cord clamping (CC) on reduced chances of childhood anaemia. Interestingly the newer studies are showing even longer term affects including better fine motor skills in boys at the age of 4 years.

‘Delayed CC compared with early CC improved scores in the fine-motor and social domains at 4 years of age, especially in boys, indicating that optimizing the time to CC may affect neurodevelopment in a low-risk population of children born in a high-income country.’ JAMA Paediatrics 

Increased fine motor skills just from a little more patience from the CP at the time of birth? That is worth standing up and taking notice of!

Please note delayed CC is also possible during a caesarean birth. 

Although there is so much information and research available it does not automatically mean your CP will be up to date with his/her practices. Partnership health care is essential and means parents inform themselves and taking an active role in the decision making process during pregnancy and birth.

Here are more awesome images of beautiful cords…

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