Nuchal Cords are Necklaces, Not Nooses

Originally shared by the BadAssMotherBirther

Stop! Nuchal Cords are Necklaces, Not Nooses

Ever been told your baby was in danger because of a nuchal cord (also referred to as umbilical cord around the neck)? Nuchal cords have become the perfect excuse. We fear nuchal cords now more than ever. We are told they are dangerous and problematic because its easier to lay blame with the mother and baby rather than the care provider and/or hospital. This has resulted in fear about nuchal cords.

Common excuses mothers are given: 

• you need a cesarean because baby was found to have a nuchal cord during a routine ultrasound

• you couldn’t push your baby out vaginally because the nuchal cord was “hanging the baby up”

• your baby is in immediate danger from a nuchal cord

• you’re lucky your baby survived a nuchal cord

What’s the evidence for nuchal cords? Are nuchal cords common? Should you worry?

The umbilical cord is the life line that attaches the fetus to the placenta. It is typically made up of three blood vessels: two smaller arteries which carry blood to the placenta and a larger vein which returns blood to the fetus. It can grow to be 60 cm long, allowing the baby enough cord to safely move around without causing damage to the cord or the placenta.

Nuchal cords are very common; a third of all babies are born with their umbilical cord around their neck. The umbilical cord is coiled and covered in Wharton's jelly (Wharton's jelly is a gelatinous substance that is also found on your eyeballs). The jelly and coil protects the umbilical cord from stretch and compression. It is wonderfully built to be worn around the neck without problems.

Research has found that a nuchal cord is not associated with morbidity or mortality for the baby during pregnancy. Because one third of all babies are with nuchal cords, babies who die are often found with a nuchal cord. Care providers and hospitals are quick to blame fetal deaths on nuchal cords. Families deserve to know the truth about their baby, even if it means admitting to care provider negligence and/or saying, "We don’t know why your baby died..."

Only in very rare cases does a nuchal cord ever pose a risk to baby. There is absolutely no reason to undergo a cesarean if a nuchal cord is found during an ultrasound. Your baby is not ‘held up’ by the cord at any time. During labor and pushing phase, your baby, placenta, and cord are all moving down together. The uterus shrinks down during contractions, moving the baby downward, along with their attached placenta and cord. During a c-section for 'fetal distress' or 'failure to progress during labor' more than likely your baby will have a cord around their neck (because again, nuchal cords happen to one in three babies universally), and your care provider will have you believe that the nuchal cord is all the blame. FALSE! Your care provider and hospital are covering their buns by blaming you and baby for their lack of patience.

The only time a cord can become very stretched and tight around the neck is at the end of labor when baby’s head is being born. Being 'choked' by the cord is not a real thing. Your baby is NOT breathing oxygen through their neck/airway. Baby receives oxygen through the cord. When a nuchal cord is wrapped tightly, the cord decreases the amount of oxygen and blood flow it sends to baby, but does not completely stop working. These babies tend to have their cords cut before they are fully born and have a harder time transitioning, often winding up needing more care and/or resuscitation due to the care provider cutting the cord very prematurely. But again, this will be blamed on the tight nuchal cord. These babies would recover quickly if the cord was left intact. The worst thing you can do to a baby that has a tight nuchal cord is clamp and cut immediately. Removing and/or loosening a nuchal cord right as baby’s head emerges increases the chances of snapping the cord on accident, and causing excessive bleeding and harm to the baby. Wait until baby is born to unwrap the cord.

Research Everything... 

Further reading from an evidence-based perspective:

Neonatal Resuscitation -

Born in the U.S.A. - Dr. Marsden Wagner

Gentle Birth Choices - Barbara Harper, R.N.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Birth - Henci Goer

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin

Childbirth Without Fear - Dr. Grantly Dick-Read

Pregnant women are invited to join either of these groups:

Pregnant Moms Due [this year] - (more mainstream)

Birthing - (more holistic)

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