New mothers are often worried that their newborn could experience unnecessary pain once outside of their womb. During delivery, one of the common procedures that mothers see is the clamping of the umbilical cord. Is it painful for them?
Cutting and clamping of the umbilical cord is painless. The umbilical cord may look thick, but it has no nerves in it.
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What is the umbilical cord?
The umbilical cord is a tube of blood vessels and a jelly-like connective tissue that connects your baby to your placenta. It gives your child oxygen and nutrients through certain tissues that bring your blood very close to your baby’s blood, allowing these substances to transfer between both blood circulations. All of your baby’s waste products are also removed through the placenta and the umbilical cord.
After birth, the umbilical cord is cut. This process is painless for both the mother and child since there are no nerves in the umbilical cord. In this sense, clamping the cord is similar to cutting your nails or hair.
Why and when is it cut?
Most hospitals follow recent guidelines that promote cord clamping around 60 seconds after birth. This allows more oxygen and blood to be transferred between the placenta and the newborn, which lessens the chances of developing anemia, iron deficiency, bleeding in the brain, and gastrointestinal infections such as necrotizing enterocolitis.
However, if the newborn needs special care, the umbilical cord is usually cut right after birth. This applies to babies who have difficulty breathing, a slow heart rate or are otherwise unstable.
On the other hand, simply leaving the umbilical cord intact between your baby and your placenta poses a risk for infection.
How is the umbilical cord removed from the mother?
The umbilical cord is attached to the placenta, which in turn is attached to the uterus. After your baby is delivered, the placenta normally detaches from the uterus and is also delivered alongside the rest of the umbilical cord.
Umbilical stump care basics
It may seem daunting to handle a body part that used to carry important blood vessels, but it’s actually simple and quite easy. Follow these tips to ensure that you’re taking care of your baby’s umbilical stump:
1. Don’t touch it
There’s no need to manipulate or pull the umbilical stump, whether it’s still quite moist or is dry and much darker in color. The latest guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend keeping it dry and clean.
There is no need for regular cleaning with alcohol or water. Clean with soap and water only when it is visibly dirty (such as when stool from the diaper reaches the stump).
2. It will fall off on its own
Your newborn’s umbilical stump will fall off on its own within the first month of life. For some babies, a small amount of blood may drop after the stump falls off.
3. Don’t tuck it in
Allow your baby’s umbilical stump to dry out, by exposing it to as much air as possible. Don’t tuck the stump under the diaper. Instead, fold the diaper until it no longer covers the umbilical stump.
4. Sponge baths only
Wait for the umbilical stump to be gone before giving your baby a full bath. Until then, a sponge bath is best for the infant.
The umbilical cord is made up of only blood vessels and connective tissue. It isn’t painful for either the mother or the newborn when it is cut and clamped. The cord is clamped around 1 minute after birth, to allow more blood and oxygen to reach your newborn’s blood circulation. After delivery, it’s important to take care of your baby’s umbilical stump.
Sarah is a healthcare writer, motivated by her love of reading books while growing up. She took up human biology and further studies in medicine, in order to fulfill her passion for helping kids. While she isn’t a biological mother yet, she has taken a young Siberian husky named Indy under her wing. She would love to someday travel the world and meet kids from different cultural backgrounds.