What happens to our umbilical cord internally as we age?

What happens to our umbilical cord internally as we age?

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I was always curious as to if or how much of the internal structure or workings of the umbilical cord are still in existence as we age. What happens to it over time?

The wikipedia article naval almost exclusively describes physical appearance and only touches on some disorders that affect physical appearance.

Then the wikipedia article on umbilical cord explains what happens briefly after birth, and only touches on it becoming part of the circulatory system. What does it actually do in later life, as part of that system?

The umbilical cord, which contains the umbilical arteries and vein so important for nutrient, oxygen and waste transport before birth, becomes useless pretty much the moment the lungs start working (the kidneys already started before birth). As the baby breathes, the two arteries constrict to stop flow from the newborn to the placenta. The Wharton's Jelly, a structural element in the cord, causes collapse of the vein on cooling to outside temperature. Within a matter of a few minutes, the whole system is shut down.

Within the infant, the umbilical vein and ductus venosus (which carried blood to the liver and the inferior vena cava) close up and degenerate into fibrous remnants known as the round ligament of the liver and the ligamentum venosum respectively. The round ligament basically just divides the left part of the liver into medial and lateral sections. The ligamentum venosum does basically the same thing on the posterior surface of the liver. Both ligaments maintain their attachment to the umbilicus. (The small paraumbilical veins are unimportant except in the case of severe portal hypertension, where they act as a portacaval anastomosis.)

The parts of the arteries closest to the navel degenerate into what are known as the medial umbilical ligaments (which basically serve no purpose whatsoever and are buried in the abdominal wall), while the more internal remaining sections are retained as part of the circulatory system as the umbilical artery.

The umbilical artery in adults is a branch of the anterior division of the internal iliac artery. The umbilical artery is found in the pelvis, and gives rise to the superior vesical arteries (supplying the superior part of the bladder, and parts of the ureters. In males, it also gives rise to the the deferential artery which supplies the ductus deferens.

Born an addict: Clues from umbilical cords

Every baby born that enters this world, arrives with an umbilical cord in tow. For those babies born addicted to drugs, that umbilical cord is now a key connection -- a hard to hide clue -- for identifying what drugs are coursing through a newborn's veins. The drug(s) detected will help physicians determine the best treatment and what withdrawal symptoms to expect.

"We may already know the mom has an opioid dependency at delivery because most women disclose this to avoid risking withdrawal, but we also need to know what else is she taking that might affect the baby's central nervous system," says Karen Buchi, MD, president, Primary Children's Hospital Medical Staff and chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Utah.

Buchi points out these babies suffer from "drug exposure" as opposed to "addiction, "which is the behavior around drug dependency exhibited by the mother. As the baby is delivered -- when a mother is suspected of being high risk for drug use -- a member of the delivery team snips off six inches of the umbilical cord and sends it to ARUP Laboratories. Because umbilical cord tissue can be sent for testing immediately after birth, this specimen type offers logistical advantages over meconium, the traditional specimen for detecting drug-exposed newborns. As the second medical laboratory in the country to start offering cord testing (since August 2012), ARUP experts immediately begin analysis looking for more than 40 specific drugs and drug metabolites. The most common drug ARUP identifies is marijuana the second most common drug class is opioids (e.g., heroin, prescription pain killers). Often there is a mix of illicit drugs and prescription drugs. According to a Utah Health Status Update released in July 2013, between 2009 and 2012, 1,476 Utah mothers were reported to have used illicit drugs. As a result, 29.5 percent of babies born to these mothers tested positive for illicit drugs at birth -- approximately 109 babies per year. "Utah is right up there with the rest of the nation in the rate of drug exposure among newborns," adds Buchi, citing that the U of U Hospital averages about one opioid-exposed newborn a month.

Each month, thousands of cord, and meconium, specimens arrive at ARUP from around the country. In Utah, the majority of cord specimens come from the Intermountain Medical Center while the University of Utah hospital still primarily sends ARUP meconium specimens. Though it varies based on the hospital, generally no consent from the mother is necessary for testing the infant if there is a medical reason to believe the child has been drug exposed in utero. Turning around results fast is crucial, because neonatal specialists need to identify and treat the symptoms to mitigate suffering and even possible death from withdrawals, before the typical 48-hour window closes when healthy mothers and their infants typically leave the hospital. While cord tissue testing can take up to 72 hours, for babies who exhibit signs of withdrawals or have mothers considered high-risk for drug use, the baby is frequently monitored longer. In this time period, the clinician can attain more information about the kinds of drugs in the baby's system and determine the best treatment.

"Sometimes babies are already in the throes of withdrawal symptoms but physicians can't determine what drugs they are dealing with until test results are available," says Gwen McMillin, PhD, DABCC, a medical director of the Clinical Toxicology Laboratories at ARUP. The Rough Road of Withdrawals for Newborns Known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, once the baby is born, and is no longer receiving drugs through the placenta from the mother, withdrawal symptoms begin. They can appear from one to ten days after birth, ranging from diarrhea, excessive or high-pitched crying, fever, seizures, hypersensitivity to light, touch, and sound, rapid breathing, trembling, hyperactive reflexes, to name a few. Some infants will carry the effects of their mothers' neonatal drug abuse for life, suffering longterm complications including brain damage and learning disabilities. Like any addict that immediately stops drug intake, a baby experiences the same physiological impact on the body and brain. In the case of a baby being exposed to opiates, if the opiate is not replaced, the baby can die. Affected newborns will spend their first months in a newborn intensive care unit it can take more than a year for the effects of some drugs to wear off. Evidence reveals that these babies are more susceptible to drug addiction issues later.

"Ten years ago we were seeing significant prenatal methamphetamine use, now its opioids the difference is the babies exposed to opioids have longer lengths of stay in the hospital because they go through physiological withdrawal," explains Buchi, who has helped set up a care process for the management of opioid-exposed newborns. "The symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome depend on the type of drug the mother used, how long it takes for the body to metabolize and eliminate the drug, how much of the drug she was taking and for how long," explains McMillin, adding that whether the baby was born full-term or premature can also be a variable. Whether a baby is addicted to stimulants or "downers" will result in different withdrawal symptoms and require different treatment. The American Medical Association estimated that in the United States approximately one infant, suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, was born every hour in 2009. "The work we're doing here is about the human condition it is about the safety of children -- as the risk of child abuse and neglect increases in cases of maternal drug abuse," emphasizes McMillin, who has visited some of the babies in NICU, as well as testified in court when called to present evidence.

"This is also about getting mothers the care and support they need through rehab and social services so they can take care of their children." Why Is The Cord the Best Evidence of Drug Use? Traditionally meconium (an infant's first stool) has been tested for detecting the presence of drugs, forming in the second trimester, and absorbing over time. However, waiting for this first stool to pass may waste valuable time, or the mother may try to dispose of it secretly, or it may pass during a difficult delivery, as happens in 10 percent of cases. The samples may be too small or sent too late for viable testing. Hair was considered as a possible specimen, but many babies don't have enough hair to provide a sizable enough sample.

"About six years ago, we started looking for alternative specimens," recalls McMillin, considering the placenta, the vernix caseosa (a white, creamy, film covering the baby's skin during the last trimester), and the umbilical cord. The cord became the specimen of choice because of its practical size, easy transportability, and accessibility. "Every child comes into this world with one and it can be sent the minute the baby is born," points out McMillin. What makes the turn-around time quicker for the cord is there is no waiting to collect the specimen. About ARUP Laboratories Founded in 1984, ARUP Laboratories is a leading national reference laboratory and a nonprofit enterprise of the University of Utah and its Department of Pathology. ARUP offers more than 3,000 tests and test combinations, ranging from routine screening tests to esoteric molecular and genetic assays. ARUP serves clients across the United States, including many of the nation's top university teaching hospitals and children's hospitals, as well as multihospital groups, major commercial laboratories, group purchasing organizations, military and other government facilities, and major clinics. In addition, ARUP is a worldwide leader in innovative laboratory research and development, led by the efforts of the ARUP Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology®.

Umbilical cord function

Among the umbilical cord’s key functions for fetal development, we’d like to highlight the following:

  • Nourishment: The umbilical cord carries nourishment provided by the mother’s placenta to the fetus.
  • Breathing: It is the job of the umbilical cord to transport oxygen-rich blood to the fetus.
  • Excretion: The carbon dioxide released by breathing as well as waste from nourishment are expelled through the umbilical cord.
  • High stem cell content. Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated cells, meaning they can convert into any type of cell. They can become skin cells, nervous tissue, or convert into cells that make up the heart, kidneys, etc. If stored, stem cells can be used to treat illnesses like childhood leukemia, spinal cord injury, or heart problems.
  • The transmission of antibodies: Towards the end of pregnancy, the mother sends antibodies formed within her body to the fetus. These antibodies contribute to the formation of the baby’s immune system.
  • The prevention of other pathologies: According to a report by Genome Biology, the analysis of umbilical cord cells in premature babies can help diagnose serious pulmonary alterations such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

As we can observe, the umbilical cord isn’t only a fundamental part of the creation of new life. It also provides a way to save lives.

The donation of umbilical cord blood is a painless process that can be performed immediately after birth.

“The umbilical cord physically demonstrates the union between mother and child in its maximum expression”

Umbilical Cord Facts

Here are ten interesting umbilical cord facts:

#1: Tangles, Knots And Loops Happen

When your baby is small enough to move around freely, they often play loop the loop with the cord. Around 35% of babies are born with their cords wrapped around their neck, and approximately 1% of cords have true knots in them.

As long as the cord is healthy and intact, tangles and loops usually don’t affect the functioning of the umbilical cord. It’s filled with a clear mucous substance called Wharton’s Jelly, which protect the blood vessels inside from being constricted by loops or knots.

#2: The Cord Stops Working When Needed

When your baby is born, she comes from an environment that is perfectly temperature controlled. When the umbilical cord leaves your body and is exposed to cooler air, the Wharton’s Jelly begins to shrink and harden. The blood vessels inside the cord are squeezed and closed off, naturally clamping the cord.

The warmer the environment outside the body, such as during a water birth, the longer the cord takes to naturally clamp. But it usually takes between three to twenty minutes.

#3: Umbilical Cord Tissue Has A Lot Of Potential

We’ve all heard about cord blood stem cells, but umbilical cord tissue is the new research phenomenon. Umbilical cord tissue contains stem cells that have the ability to regenerate and change into different types of cells, such as cartilage, bone, fat and muscle. This means cord tissue has the potential to treat more conditions than cord blood stem cells.

Clinical trials underway at the moment are looking at how cord stem cells can be used to treat conditions such as stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, asthma and cerebral palsy.

#4: The Origin Of The Cord

The umbilical cord is physiologically and genetically part of your baby. When an egg is fertilised, it divides into two parts. One part becomes the embryo and the other becomes the placenta.

The embryonic cells under go many transitions, but one of the first things to happen is the yolk sac is formed. The yolk sac provides nutrients from the mother to the embryo, before the placenta is ready to function some weeks later. The umbilical cord develops out of the yolk sac and allantois (fetal membrane).

#5: Blood Is Thicker Than Water

In the last trimester, your baby receives half a litre of blood every single minute via the umbilical cord. Your blood does not mix with your baby’s blood. The exchange of nutrients, oxygen and waste happens in the placenta.

The umbilical cord normally has two arteries, which carry blood that contains waste from the baby to the placenta. It also has one vein that carries oxygen and nutrients back to the baby.

#6: Cord Health Matters

The umbilical system is critical to ensure your baby receives the nutrients needed to grow and thrive. Maternal problems with health and nutrition can affect the development of the placenta and umbilical cord. Poor nutrition, obesity, smoking, exposure to chemicals and smoking can affect the development of the umbilical system.

CNN ‘Hero of the Year’ Robin Lim, midwife and creator of the Bumi Sehat Birth Clinic in Bali, has reported seeing an increase in umbilical cord deformities. Robin believes the changes to the cords may have been caused by GMOs, as a large portion of the diet in Indonesia is GMO soy based.

A recent study reported that toxins used to kill pests in GMO foods were found in the blood of 93% of pregnant women and 80% of umbilical cords.

If you need help to quit smoking while pregnant, see BellyBelly’s article on smoking myths and how to quit.

#7: Twin Cords Vary

Identical (monozygotic) twins form when a single fertilised egg splits in two, and develops into two babies with the same genetic material. Around one third of all twins are monozygotic.

When the egg splits, it determines if the twins will share a placenta or not. Twinning in the first four days results in separate placentas. Twinning after four days will result in a shared placenta, but each twin has their own umbilical cord.

#8: Cord Length Varies

Umbilical cords vary in length, but are typically between 45 – 60 centimetres long. We don’t know what causes umbilical cord length, but it reaches its full length at around 28 weeks gestation.

Short cords occur in around 6% of pregnancies, and is usually linked with increased risk of placenta retention and c-section.

#9: Babies Developing Sense Of Touch

Your baby’s sense of touch begins to develop early during pregnancy. When you’re 8 weeks pregnant, your baby can feel touch on her face and lips. By 14 weeks, your baby is beginning to explore around the uterus and her own body, using her hands, feet, and mouth.

Ultrasound imaging shows babies using their hands to explore the uterus, including grasping the umbilical cord. This exploration of their environment primes their brain to seek learning experiences through touch after birth and into childhood.

#10: The Cultural Significance Of The Cord

In Western cultures, the significance of the umbilical cord relates mainly to the father or partner cutting the cord after the baby is born, symbolising the ‘breaking of the bond’ between mother and baby.

In many other cultures, preservation of the cord celebrates the role of the cord in nourishing the baby during pregnancy. Japanese mothers keep their children’s dried umbilical cords in a special wooden box.

Many of the Native American tribes cherish the umbilical cord. In some tribes babies would be presented with a part of their dried cord in a beaded pouch that they wore throughout life.

In Turkey, parents bury the umbilical cord of their child in a place of knowledge, to influence their future career.

With the increased interest in placenta encapsulation, new mothers in Western cultures are beginning to want their baby’s cord as a keepsake. Most placenta encapsulators also dry the cord when dehydrating the placenta and return it in a special box.

The Rebirth of Placenta Rituals

Reclaiming an organ that modern medical professionals often designate as waste may inspire more people to study and adapt ancient traditions.

A few days after giving birth at her home in southeast Australia, Emily Burns sat in her yard and watched as her husband and 2-year-old son dug a hole. In her arms, she cradled her sleeping newborn beside her was a small container holding her placenta. It was a beautiful October day in 2008.

W hen the hole was big enough, Burns gently laid her still-sleeping baby onto the soft grass beside her to pick up the container. She walked over to the hole and placed the placenta inside. She then paused, resting her hand on the earth, and silently acknowledged what the placenta had given her. “I felt emotional, bestowing the thanks for my beautiful healthy baby on this organ that had been grown just for that purpose,” she recounts.

Emily Burns’ oldest son waters the peach tree the family planted over his younger sibling’s placenta. Emily Burns

W hen it was time to plant the peach tree atop the placenta, Burns hesitated, feeling as if she was “saying goodbye to something very special that would not return.” The trio then packed handfuls of earth in the hole around the tree until it was filled. Finally, she gave her baby a kiss.

B urns’ ritual was much more ceremony than is afforded to a placenta in most Western cultures. In countries where the childbirth process is highly medicalized, the placenta is typically whisked away to the incinerator. Recently, however, there has been some pushback: Maternal placentophagy—a mother’s consumption of the placenta after giving birth—has become an increasingly popular practice in wealthy, developed nations. Proponents, including celebrities and social media influencers , insist—based on anecdotal evidence—that it can boost new moms’ milk supply and mood levels, even going so far as to say it can fend off postpartum depression.

T hus far, researchers have been unsuccessful in validating these claims in large-scale studies—but this newfound Western interest in placentas has helped propel investigations into the varied cultural practices surrounding the placenta. Anthropologists are uncovering myriad practices for handling this organ. Because traditional cultures have long recognized and revered its power, the placenta is treated with great respect throughout much of the world, often disposed of in solemn ceremonies. Inspired by those rituals, more mothers in the West, like Burns, are finding ways to appreciate an entity that modern medicine has dismissed as medical waste.


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T he placenta is a magical organ. It’s a 1-pound frisbee-like mass of tissue that, together with the umbilical cord, brokers the sharing of resources between mother and fetus, maintains the uterine environment, filters out toxins, and disposes of waste. It’s the body’s only temporary organ, conjured by an embryo and expelled when its job is complete. Blood vessels spread across its surface like the wide, billowing branches of a tree.

I n 2010, medical anthropologists Daniel Benyshek and Sharon Young, both at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, set about analyzing the traditions of 179 cultures for handling of the placenta. They found that among the 109 communities that define culturally appropriate placenta rituals, there were 169 disposal methods, including burial, incineration, intentional placement in a specific location, or hanging in a tree or structure. When Burns chose to bury her child’s placenta under a tree, she participated in one of the most common disposal methods. In many cultures, the tree is thought to act as a protector of the child alternatively, the tree’s health could foreshadow the child’s well-being and prosperity.

B urns knows that fact well. She is not just a practitioner of placenta ritual. She studies home-birthing and placenta-disposal practices among modern Australians as a researcher at Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences and Psychology. Becoming a mother sparked Burns’ fascination with placenta rituals and other elements of spirituality in childbirth.

“ Around the world, various traditions, customs, rituals, and beliefs surround the placenta,” Burns wrote in a 2014 paper in The Journal of Perinatal Education. She noted that scholars believe these practices may release some of the anxiety that often accompanies labor, birth, and new motherhood.

Click on the red dots to explore a sampling of placenta rituals from around the world.

T he placenta is commonly believed to be a child’s living relative: Several cultures refer to it as a mother, sibling, or grandmother. “Across the Americas, the placenta is treated reverentially,” wrote Patrisia Gonzales, an assistant professor of Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona, in her book Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing . “For many Indigenous cultures, the placenta is a living being.” Some other cultures believe in a sort of twinning of child and placenta. In Ancient Egypt , the placenta was considered by many to be a child’s secret helper. Some Icelandic and Balinese cultures see the placenta as a child’s guardian angel.

I n many traditions, people believe that improper handling of the placenta will affect the fate of the mother and/or child—or that the placenta’s condition is an omen for the child’s abilities or health. Rituals must therefore be performed exactly and can be quite involved, requiring that the placenta be washed in special liquid, wrapped in certain fabrics or plants, placed in a specific vessel, and buried or set in an appropriate location.

B ut of the many rituals investigated by anthropologists and social scientists more broadly, one is notably absent from the list: the increasingly trendy practice among Western women of eating the placenta.

B enyshek’s interest in placentas was piqued in 2008 at a departmental brown-bag lunch presentation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. There, a prominent local placenta encapsulation specialist described how she prepares placenta for a mother’s consumption. The organ, she explained, is typically steamed, dehydrated, ground, and placed into capsules.

C urious about academic research on the practice’s history, Benyshek approached the speaker after the presentation. What he learned next about placentophagy surprised him. “I asked her what research was being done into it and she said none. I couldn’t believe it. There was no look at traditional cultures,” he says.

T hat absence inspired Benyshek and Young’s 2010 cultural analysis, which examined a range of rituals but found virtually no evidence of mothers regularly consuming their own placenta. Granted, they only looked at 179 cultures: “It was a representative sample, but it’s not an exhaustive list,” Benyshek says. But their data suggest that, if anything, many cultures avoid eating the placenta. (Indeed, some communities believe that the mother or child will be harmed if an animal, for instance, consumes the placenta.)

Dehydrated placenta, shown here along with a dried umbilical cord, will be ground to a powder and placed into a pill capsule for a new mother to ingest. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

A lthough a few cultures do have long-standing beliefs that the placenta can be an edible remedy, the practices rarely resemble modern maternal placentophagy. For example, in some, pieces of the umbilical cord or placenta are dried and later fed to the child as a treatment for illness. And in traditional Chinese medicine, which placentophagy practitioners point to as the source of their practice, “it is not a mother ingesting her own placenta, it’s always another person’s placenta,” explains Benyshek. “Also, it’s not prescribed right after birth, though it is said to treat low milk supply,” he adds. In addition, traditional Chinese medicine sometimes prescribes dried placenta for chronic cough, liver problems, and male impotence.

T here is perhaps just one line of logic that suggests the practice of a woman eating her own is, in a sense, ancient. Among almost all mammal species on Earth besides humans, birthing mothers eat their own placenta. It’s possible, then, that early humans had, at some point, an animalistic impulse to devour the placenta—fresh and raw—just after giving birth.

B enyshek believes that tendency would have ended after our species discovered fire, an innovation that would have regularly exposed humans to toxic smoke and ash. Since the placenta acts as a filter, wherein toxins accumulate, the organ was an increasingly poor choice of nutrients.

T oday, in fact, ingesting one’s placenta remains a potentially risky endeavor. “Placentas are often colonized with bacteria. Many are infected. As a general rule it’s best not to eat something that is potentially teeming with bacteria, many of which may be pathogenic,” wrote Jen Gunter, an OB-GYN at the San Francisco Medical Center, in an opinion article in The New York Times last year. Gunter, who has fielded requests by mothers who want to keep their placenta, noted that the organ can carry traces of arsenic, mercury, and lead. She also worries about how the reproductive hormones in placentas could affect new moms.

I n 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against the practice of ingesting encapsulated placenta after an infant developed a life-threatening infection. The baby’s mother consumed her own encapsulated placenta, not realizing that it contained group B streptococcus bacteria. The baby then contracted a strep infection that developed into sepsis.

C onsuming the placenta may not be advisable —nor may it have the deep cultural roots that some adherents describe—but studying the treatment of the placenta has led researchers like Burns and Benyshek to question the dismissive handling of this organ in many societies.

W estern medicine is only just beginning to recognize the mysterious power of the placenta. For example, scientists are realizing how the expression of different genes in the placenta is linked to a number of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight. In addition, since placentas are mostly made of the baby’s cells packaged inside the mother’s uterus, they are helping scientists to understand how cancer cells can similarly avoid being attacked by the immune system.

A researcher prepares a human placenta for a study at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Ben Birchall/Getty Images

B enyshek likens traditional treatments of the placenta to those of a corpse after death many cultures treat the placenta much like a miscarried fetus or stillborn child. Human remains are powerful—“potentially very dangerous, polluting, contagious,” Benyshek points out. They are therefore handled with attention and solemnity in many traditions. “It’s very striking when you contrast this [care] with how it’s treated in biomedicine: as biological waste.”

T his idea of reclaiming the placenta from the status of biohazard or waste is a significant one. In New Zealand, the Maori use the same word for placenta and land: whenua. Traditionally, whenua were placed in hollowed-out gourds, earthen pots, or woven baskets, and then buried in a place of significance to return them to the Earth Mother. Later, British colonists dubbed the practice primitive and unhygienic. They regarded it as superstitious. The Maori began to treat the placenta as their European conquerors did: as medical waste. In the early 1980s, a small group of activists sparked a resurgence in traditional placenta burial, and it is now once again a common practice.

B urns has observed a parallel transition in her in-depth interviews with mothers in Australia who have had home births. “It was clear quite early in the research that the placenta was not an afterthought. … When you take away the medical context for birth, women and families are responsible for making some very specific and deliberate decisions about processes that are otherwise handed over to medical personnel,” Burns says.

B urns believes Western societies could benefit from adopting postpartum practices, such as intentional placenta disposal. There’s something to be said, she argues, for slowing down the transition to parenthood. “We can also learn the value in ritual, in a mourning ritual of burial in particular, as we might find comfort in a ceremony to say farewell to pregnancy as we move into motherhood,” Burns says.

A s Burns’ baby grew, she says it felt very special to tell her child “these are your peaches” when they got a great crop from the tree planted over the placenta. When she looked out at the tree, she would feel a twinge of nostalgia for her child’s baby years.

T hough Burns and her family have since moved, their old neighbor tells them the tree is still growing strong. Sad to leave it behind, they did try to dig it up and take it along, but it was just too heavy.

Are there nerves in the umbilical cord?

I'm talking about the human umbilical cord, specifically, and I'm curious whether newborns feel anything when it's cut.

No. The only structures in the umbilical cord are two arteries and a vein, unsurprisingly called the umbilical arteries and the umbilical vein. The cord's not even made of muscle or skin. It's composed, apart from those blood vessels, of a substance called Wharton's jelly, which is the same kind of stuff that fills your eyeballs.

Do eyeballs have more in them as well as the jelly? My eyeballs have nerves and other things in them, right?

A somewhat detailed analysis of the umbilical cord. Embryologically, the way the cord develops, and the tissue it develops from would not include nerves, specifically, sensory nerves.

well then. thank you for this information it was very interesting. i will however have you know i never wanna learn anything about the human body ever again after receiving said information. lol

Umbilical cord contains 2 arteries, 1 vein and a substance called Whartons Jelly that gives the cord its shape and protects the arteries/veins from being occluded.

The next part is me thinking to myself, and not a scientific answer. the cord is not meant to contain any nerves, yet for breech births and cord prolapse we are taught to not touch the cord, or as little as possible as it could cause it to spasm. Therefor blood flow will reduce/stop and separation of the placenta could commence prematurely. If there are no nerves how could that happen?

Arteries have a layer of muscle. I know when we put lines in a peripheral artery, we infuse a mixture that includes lidocaine to prevent the artery from spasming around the line.

Just because there are no nerves, does not mean that the tissue is not responsive to environmental changes such as pH, electrolyte concentrations, or concentrations of compounds such as CO2, glucose, epinephrine or the like. Arterial walls contain smooth muscle cells which respond to chemistry and changes in tension. If there is sufficient pressure to affect blood flow through the vessels in the cord, there is sufficient pressure to affect local concentrations of ions and chemicals that can affect smooth muscle contraction. Tension or pressure on smooth muscle cells can affect their polarization and function/movement. No nerves are required.

Might not be related, but Wallarian Degeneration in axons is the product of propagating damage. Maybe trauma to the chord causes a cascade?

Perhaps there are nerves that trigger the spasm where it's anchored on either end?

you don't always need a nerve to release a signal.

This is pure speculation here, but.

Disturbing the cord could cause sudden changes in blood pressure in the vein and arteries of the cord, which could be detected by nerves on either side of the cord, in the placenta and/or baby, which could trigger a spasm. So even without nerves in the cord itself, it could be sensitive to touch.

The umbilical cord and placenta are tissue produced by the fetus. That should answer your hypothetical.

I have always wondered about the umbilical cord. Where exactly does it go in the woman? What exactly is behind the baby's belly button and what happens to everything on both ends after birth? Do all living fictions just flip like a light switch? That quick? Should I feel silly that this amazes me still at 34?

The umbilical cord attaches to the placenta. The placenta is created by the fetus. After the sperm and egg unite, the cell divides and one half becomes baby and one half becomes placenta. The placenta attaches to the uterine wall. The mother's blood supply connects to the fetus there, at the capillary level. After birth, the placenta is expelled. It looks like a slab of liver with big veins on it. And the umbilical cord and remnants of the amniotic sac. I think the structures on the baby's end eventually get reabsorbed - they just go away.

On the baby side, the belly button closes up (like a regular cut scabs, sort of) and the cord dries out and falls off.

It's really, really cool. The umbilical cord is sending blood to the placenta to pick up oxygen and nutrients that come from the mother's blood and carrying back to the fetus. The umbilicus and placenta are both made entirely from fetal cells.

There is a membrane called the chorion that serves as an interface between the fetus and mother. The chorion sends structures called chorionic villi that look like little hairs or fingers to embed in the lining of the uterus. These villi get bathed in the mother's blood, allowing gas and nutrient exchange without mixing fluids between mother and fetus.

Others have explained the contents of the umbilical cord (two umbilical arteries and an umbilical vein). Yes, remnants of these structures are still visible in adults.

The umbilical vein makes a beeline for the liver, which has a lot of blood vessels going to and from it. The round ligament of the liver is the remnant of the umbilical vein. It was headed to the hepatic portal vein. After birth the walls of the vessel collapse and degenerate into fibrous connective tissue, at which point the vein is said to be "obliterated".

The ligamentum venosum is the remnant of the ductus venosus, which is a major fork of the umbilical vein that was headed to the inferior vena cava. The IVC goes straight up to the heart. The ligamentum venosum is mostly integrated with other structures so it's not always obvious in adults.

The two umbilical arteries come from the internal iliac arteries, which are formed by the forking of the aorta in the pelvis. After they come off the internal iliacs they are actually still patent (open and carrying blood) and they give off superior vesicular arteries, which carry blood to the bladder. In men they also send an artery to the vas deferens. The umbilical arteries then continue running up into the abdominal wall to head to the umbilical cord, but after birth they become obliterated. Like the umbilical vein, they turn into connective tissue, and are now known as the medial umbilical ligaments.

Fetal circulation is different. The umbilical vein is carrying oxygenated blood (but going towards the heart, which is why it's called a vein). It goes into the portal vein in the liver and inferior vena cava (via the ductus venosus). The umbilical arteries are carrying deoxygenated blood back to the placenta.

Fetal circulation mostly bypasses the lungs, which obviously aren't being used in utero. The alveoli in lungs used to exchange gases aren't inflated yet. They inflate when an infant begins breathing.

There is a hole between the two atria, or upper chambers, of the heart called the foramen ovale between two flaps of tissue. Circulation changes when the lungs inflate at birth. Those two flaps of tissue snap shut with those first few breaths and eventually fuse, but a little depression called the fossa ovalis is visible even in adults.

There is also a shunt between the pulmonary vein and aorta called the ductus arteriosus. The pulmonary artery goes from the heart to the lungs, and in adults it sends deoxygenated blood to pick up oxygen. The ductus arteriosus allows more blood to bypass the lungs and head to other structures like the brain. It decays into something known as the ligamentum arteriosum.

The ductus venosus that I mentioned above shunts blood past the liver into the IVC, which goes directly to the heart. It also helps send blood more directly to the brain.

So the remnants of fetal circulation are the round ligament of the liver, ligamentum venosum, ligamentum arteriosum, and two medial umbilical ligaments. Occasionally these structures don't close up the way they should, which can cause issues.

All of this is summarized here, including problems that can occur when structures remain patent. Watching an animation can also make this much clearer!

What is the Prognosis of Thrombosis of Umbilical Cord? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • Thrombosis of Umbilical Cord can be a life-threatening condition with a high mortality rate. In 65% of the pregnancies with this condition, it may result in a termination of the pregnancy
  • A delayed treatment or a lack of treatment may result in the death of the baby, or cause adverse health complications for the baby
  • If the two umbilical arteries of the umbilical cord are occluded, then the prognosis is even worse

What happens when your belly button bleeds?

The origin of blood seepage inside the belly button varies based on what causes it. Some bleeding are minor and may dismiss within days, while some other may be persistent or occur intermittently. Knowing what really happens when you have a belly button bleeding can really help you providing the most suitable treatment to improve the condition.

  • Belly button bleeding, similar to other kinds of bleeding in the body, is induced by inflammation. When the skin tissues are inflamed, the nerve system around the site is influenced. As a result, you might feel painful sensation as your body is trying to let you know about this problem.
  • Due to the inflammation, the skin around the belly button is not only swollen, but also changes its color. The color can be pinkish or bluish, resembling some bruises.
  • If the bleeding is caused by excessive skin scratching, some abrasions may present. Commonly, skin scratching on the wound site is triggered by severe itching due to extremely-dry navel skin. Thus, you will see some flaking skin as well as seepage of blood. Dried blood is also common and may cause blockage to the wound site.
  • If the belly button is bleeding due to a trauma, inflammation will be present and is accompanied by blood discharge. Based on how hard the trauma is, the amount of blood may vary. Commonly, the trauma causes damage to the skin tissues and in more severe cases, the blood vessels on the skin, triggering blood discharge. This, obviously, requires an immediate treatment, as an open wound on the site can easily be infested with bacteria residing in the skin.
  • Some severe infection does not only produce blood. Instead, it is accompanied with pus discharge and foul odor, which may stay on the wound site for days or weeks. If you are spotting these signs, it is an indication that infection is quite serious and needs to be treated properly.
  • Any amount of blood present inside the navel should be put into account, as it is likely to show a problem with the body part. If left untreated, bleeding in the belly button may lead to more serious problem. In some cases, this bleeding spreads to the abdominal area and thus, causes some abdominal complications, which are harder to treat.
  • Bleeding in the belly button that is experienced by newborns are quite normal, considering it is a result of the taken-off umbilical cord right after birth. However, if the bleeding is persistent, painful, and causes a lot of discomfort to the baby, it may suggest an infection. In infants, this infection may be accompanied by fever and needs to be observed immediately.

What is velamentous cord insertion?

In a normal pregnancy, the fetus&rsquo blood vessels run via the umbilical cord directly into the middle of the mom&rsquos placenta. A velamentous cord insertion is when a fetus&rsquo umbilical cord abnormally inserts on the edge of the placenta along the chorioamniotic membranes, causing fetal blood vessels to travel unprotected from the placenta until they come together and reach the protection of the umbilical cord.

This uncommon pregnancy complication occurs in about 1 percent of singleton pregnancies and in up to 15 percent of identical twin pregnancies in which a single placenta is shared by both fetuses.

It&rsquos not entirely clear why velamentous cord insertion happens. The good news is that it rarely causes serious problems. You&rsquoll just need more monitoring during your pregnancy and when you&rsquore giving birth.

Placenta Previa

Now, about that placenta. That placenta is baby&aposs best friend, source of blood supply, oxygen, food, everything. We need it to be safe, healthy and to hang on for the whole pregnancy.

If it&aposs covering the cervix, that&aposs called a placenta previa. Babies can&apost be delivered through a placenta-covered cervix because it will destroy the placenta leaving mother and baby at risk for hemorrhage. It has to stay in good working order all the way through delivery. Once baby&aposs born, fine—retire, already. Just not one moment sooner.

Most of the time however, as the lower uterine segment grows, it outpaces the placenta, essentially moving the cervix away from it. Once the placenta is clear of the cervix, there&aposs no longer any danger. If it doesn&apost move out of the way—that&aposs a darn good reason to have a cesarean section. There&aposs no other way to safely deliver the baby. You&aposre also looking at bed rest through the third trimester to decrease chances of bleeding. If you have a placenta previa, you may just have to wait and see what happens with the placenta over the next couple months.


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