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What Is an Umbilical Cord?

The umbilical cord is the 40 cm to 60 cm long tube that links an unborn child to the placenta in the mother’s womb. It is also called a funis. Passing blood between the placenta and the fetus is umbilical cord’s job. The placenta protects the fetus in the uterus as it acts like a barrier filtering out harmful substances from entering the fetus’ system and it stores energy and blood for the fetus.

The blood that the umbilical cord carries is full of oxygen as the fetus cannot breathe or access air from the fluid that surrounds it. Twisted or knotted umbilical cords limit blood flow to the fetus, or sometimes the fetus may be strangled by the cord. These are types of prolapsed umbilical cords which require the baby to be delivered quickly through Cesarean section or the baby may suffer severe brain damage or die in utero.

Upon delivery, the umbilical cord is cut breaking the bodily connection between the baby and the mother. The mother also ejects the placenta from her body. Any part of the umbilical cord left on the child will dry off and fall off, leaving the scar known as the belly button, navel, or umbilicus.

Umbilical cords are rich in stem cells. Parents may opt to freeze the stem cells from the umbilical cord as they are useful for the child or a member of the family when faced by certain diseases. Some parents even carry a child to term to acquire umbilical cord stem cells to save a family member’s life.

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