The umbilical cord is the connection between the fetus/baby and the placenta in the womb of the mother. It is the connection through which the child gets its nutrients from the mother. It is also the channel through which waste products are transported from the baby to the mother.
When a baby is delivered the umbilical cord is cut off from the placenta (this is a painless process). The average length of the umbilical cord is about 50cm (20 inches) long.
Necessary care needs to be given to the umbilical stump (remaining part of the umbilicus attached to the baby). Failure to care for the stump can lead to an infection. The following care should be given to the stump
• Keep the stump dry by exposing the stump to fresh air.
• Keep it clean by cleaning with alcohol (spirit) soaked cotton wool 3 times a day.
• Bath the baby carefully so as to keep the umbilical cord out of water
• The diaper band should be below the umbilical stump to prevent contamination with faeces
• Remember to also change diapers once soiled to avoid cord contamination
It is normal to notice a little blood when the cord falls off. It is also normal for some clear fluid to egress from the scar left after the stump has fallen off. This will resolve over time.
Signs of umbilical cord infection
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it is important to visit a doctor;
• Redness around the cord stump
• Oozing of pus from the cord
• Purulent smell from the cord
• Swelling around the stump
• Excessive bleeding from cord stump (this might be the sign of a bleeding disorder)
• Excessive pain on touching the umbilical region.
It usually takes about 1-2 weeks for the stump to dry and fall off. It is important to note that one shouldn’t be try to pull off the cord even if it is hanging by a thread.
The presence of a moist, red lump on your baby’s navel 2 weeks after the umbilical cord falls off most likely indicates a granuloma. See your doctor for treatment of this minor problem.
In addition, the presence of bulging tissue around the navel, usually after the umbilical cord falls off may be an umbilical hernia. This usually goes on its own but should be monitored by a doctor.
Proper care should be given to the cord to avoid unwanted infections.