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How Long Is An Umbilical Cord

by Dan Hughes
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How Long Is An Umbilical Cord

How Long Is An Umbilical Cord

An infant’s umbilical cord is a lifeline from the mother’s womb to the outside world. In fact, its purpose is to connect the placenta to the baby, allowing nutrients to flow between them. But how long is this vital connection? What makes up the structure of the umbilical cord? And what happens when you cut into it?
First things first — how do we know how long the umbilical cord is going to be? Medical professionals measure an expectant mom’s due date and use that as a guide for the expected birth date of her child. They also look at the size of the uterus (how big or small it is) as well as any other health complications she might have in order to determine the length of the pregnancy. This allows medical staff to predict approximately how long the baby will take to grow. For example, if the pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, expectant mothers are usually admitted to hospital when their babies’ heads reach 25 to 27 centimeters, which corresponds with about 37 to 41 weeks of gestation. But don’t count on your doctor giving you a specific number; they’re estimating based on averages and your general physical state during your checkup.
As early as 1827, French surgeon Pierre Louis described the appearance of the fetal umbilicus by drawing pictures of it on his patients’ abdomens. He noted that the cord was formed by the union of two cords coming from the fetus. One cord originated near the navel and stretched toward the right side of the body while the other came out just below the left hip bone and connected to the right leg. From there, the combined cords extended down through the abdominal wall and exited the skin. Although he didn’t really explain why these were called “umbilici,” he did compare the umbilicus to a buttonhole [sources: Fowden].
We now know that the umbilical cord has four layers. First is the amniotic membrane, followed by the single layer of mesoderm. Next comes the ectodermal layer, made of three tissue types: endoderm, consisting of the gastrointestinal tract lining and all the internal organs including liver, pancreas and kidneys; mesenchyme, which gives rise to various parts of the body such as bones, muscles, cartilage, fat, teeth, nails, hair follicles, mammary glands and lungs; and finally the dermis, which covers everything else. The last layer is the subcutaneous layer.
Once the embryo develops into a fetus, the umbilical cord continues growing but at a much slower rate than before. During this time, the amount of blood flowing through the umbilical cord increases significantly. At the same time, the head of the baby grows faster than the rest of the body so that it can fit through the narrow opening. When the baby is born, the umbilical cord is still attached to the placenta. Once the baby is delivered, the placenta detaches itself from the umbilical cord.
So how does all this happen? Read more next.
Umbilical Cords 101
Umbilical Cord Clamping
What Happens After Cutting Into Your Uterus?
Umbilical Cord Clamps
Umbilical Cord Length
Umbilical Cord Clamps
What Happens After Cutting Into Your Uterus?
When doctors deliver a baby, they typically clamp off both ends of the umbilical cord immediately after cutting the cord. There are several reasons for doing this. One reason is to prevent the umbilical cord from retracting back inside the uterus once it’s been severed. Another reason is to stop the bleeding. If the umbilical cord is not clamped, blood may continue to ooze out of the wound and make the area slippery. Both of these situations could cause serious problems if the blood loss isn’t stopped quickly. Finally, some hospitals want to put pressure directly above where the cut was made for fear of hemorrhaging. By putting a rubber band over the cut site, they reduce the chance of postpartum hemorrhage.
To avoid the possibility of having to clamp the ends later, many doctors choose to tie off the umbilical cord instead. A midwife uses either a silk thread or catgut suture material, depending on whether the procedure occurs in the operating room or in the delivery ward. Some physicians prefer to perform surgery on the cord without clamping because they believe that it prevents infection and reduces pain for the baby. However, most researchers agree that tying off the cord before birth is safer.
In 2002, Dr. Mian El-Gohary and colleagues published results of a study comparing the effects of routine clamping versus no clamping on women who had undergone cesarean sections. According to their findings, clamping the umbilical cord doesn’t increase the risk of hemorrhage and causes less damage to the uterine muscle. On the other hand, nonclamping resulted in lower levels of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for stimulating contractions.
Next: How long is an umbilical cord?
Umbilical cords come in different lengths. Generally, the length of the cord varies according to the baby’s position. Babies that lie on their bellies tend to have shorter cords compared with those lying on their backs. Also, the longer the cord, the greater the weight the baby carries. So the longest umbilical cords belong to twins. In addition, certain conditions can affect the length of the umbilical cord. Pregnancy-induced hypertension, diabetes mellitus and Rh sensitization can cause the circulation to constrict, resulting in a shorter cord.
Umbilical Cord Length
Length of the umbilical cord ranges from 12 to 42 inches (30 to 106 cm), with an average of 20 inches (50 cm). About 60 percent of newborn infants have an umbilical cord measuring 16 to 23 inches (40 to 58 cm). The remaining 40 percent have cords ranging from 4 to 15 inches (10 to 38 cm) in length.
Because the umbilical cord attaches the baby to the placenta, it’s pretty important to understand exactly what the organ looks like. The placenta is an organ that connects the developing human being to the uterine wall and provides oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Placentas vary in size from 2 to 3 pounds (1 kilogram) and range in color from white to dark red. There are actually five distinct layers within the placenta: the outermost layer is the chorion, which protects the inner areas of the placenta, including the umbilical cord. Another layer is the trophoblast, which consists of cells that differentiate into specialized tissues needed to support the development of the unborn child. Within the placenta lies the spongiotrophoblasts, which produce hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Then there are the syncytiotrophoblasts, which provide nourishment to the fetus via hormones. Lastly, there’s the villi, which extend outward from the placenta and allow for proper nutrient uptake. All together, the placenta weighs about 1 ounce (28 grams) [sources: Mayo Clinic, MedlinePlus].
Umbilical cord accidents are quite rare, occurring in fewer than 0.5 percent of births. These accidents include tearing, snapping, kinking, crushing and even strangulation. Most injuries occur when the cord separates from the placental disk, leading to death of the baby. Since the umbilical cord acts as the life line for the baby, it should never be cut, twisted or broken. To help ensure safety, use scissors to snip the cord when necessary and wear gloves to protect yourself against infection.
Now let’s talk about what happens when you cut into the umbilical cord.
If you’ve ever watched a movie scene where someone cuts open a package with a pair of scissors, you probably noticed that the scissors often slip and rip apart the paper rather than making clean cuts. That’s essentially what happens when people use regular household scissors to cut into the umbilical cord. Regular scissors aren’t designed for delicate work and are therefore difficult to handle. It takes practice and experience to properly trim the umbilical cord. A good person to ask for help would be a nurse or obstetrician. They’ll likely have done this hundreds of times already and will be able to show you the correct technique.
What Happens After Cutting Into Your Uterus?
After a woman delivers a healthy baby, the placenta is removed by a member of the nursing staff. While the placenta is being prepared, the baby is placed on top of the abdomen. Once the placenta is ready, the doctor places a towel under the belly to catch the fluid released from the placenta. Then, using a scalpel, the doctor slices along the base of the cord and simultaneously pulls upward on the opposite end of the incision. This action separates the umbilical cord from the placenta. Once the cord is detached, the umbilicus falls away from the baby. The doctor then ties off each

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