Note on Babies and Cords

You hear a lot about babies and umbilical cords when you are in my line of work (breeding). And this phrase is often uttered: “That c-section was a good thing because the cord was wrapped around the baby three times!” Or something like that. Now, this kind of thing makes me nervous. And also puzzled. Isn’t the cord always wrapped around the baby? Isn’t the baby really slippery? Isn’t the cord really slippery? Wouldn’t the baby generally be able to slip out of the cord when the time came to be born? How often does it actually happen that the cord “prevents” the baby from being born naturally?

I asked my midwife about this supposed “design flaw” and she confirmed my suspicion that there actually is no design flaw. The cord, if it is long enough, likely is wrapped around the baby which will keep it from emerging first (prolapsed cord) and cutting off the baby’s oxygen supply, leading to tragedy. There probably are times when the cord is wrapped around the baby in a way that prevents it from progressing down the birth canal. But for the most part, it isn’t that the baby is wrapped in the cord that necessitates the c-section: it is that the baby isn’t handling the stress of the contractions well. When the baby is born, it’s easy to look at it and see: the cord! Wrapped around the baby! No wonder she couldn’t get out! And point to that as if it were the reason, when it probably was not.

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  1. Cagesjamtoo (aka Sam)

    June 30th, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    On Number 6, cord wrapped around neck 3 times. He did flips inside me. Only think it slowed down was getting the shoulders out so they could unwrap it. There were no problems with the baby.


    lizzie Reply:

    I would love to hear more stories like that: “The cord was wrapped around the baby, but he came out just fine anyway.”


  2. A good analogy for the importance of umbilical cords is to compare them to the air line that is used by a deep sea diver. It doesn’t really matter how tangled up it gets or if it is wrapped around the baby, as long as the cord itself isn’t tied in a tight knot or compressed to the point where the “air” (blood) can no longer get to the “diver” (baby). See here:


    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks for that analogy. I’m sure I’ll be using it next time someone talks about how the cord kept the baby from coming out.


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