Learning About Umbilical Cord Looping (Nuchal Cord)

What is umbilical cord looping?

The umbilical cord is the ropey structure that connects your baby to your placenta. Before your baby is born, blood vessels in the cord nourish the baby and take away waste products. When the baby is born, the cord is about 0.5 metre long. Some cords may be shorter or longer.

Sometimes during pregnancy or labour, the cord gets looped around the baby's neck. When this happens it's called a nuchal (say "NEW-kuhl") cord. This may happen because of how the baby moves in the mother's uterus. Or it can happen when the cord is very long. In some cases, the cord may loop around the baby's neck more than one time.

Nuchal cords are common. They are not a cause for alarm. Most babies with a nuchal cord are born without a problem and are healthy at birth. When the doctor or midwife delivers the baby, he or she untangles the cord from the baby's neck. In some cases, the doctor may need to cut the cord during the delivery.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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