Umbilical Cord

Definition - What does Umbilical Cord mean?

The umbilical cord is a connection that serves a conduit between an embryo or fetus and a placenta. The umbilical cord enters the fetus though the abdomen (the site of the future belly button). The cord is not connected directly to the mother, but rather to the placenta to allow for transfer of materials from the mother's blood without direct mixing.

The umbilical cord starts to develop around 4 weeks of pregnancy and grows to be around 22 inches long.

FertilitySmarts explains Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord generally contains two arteries and one vein. The vein takes freshly oxygenated blood from the placenta to the fetus and the arteries remove nutrient-depleted, deoxygenated blood back to the placenta. A substance called Wharton's Jelly protects the blood vessels.

Abnormalities of the umbilical cord which may pose problems to the fetus include:

  • Umbilical cord compression, from knotting or wrapping of the cord
  • Single umbilical artery, rather than the usual two arteries
  • Umbilical cord prolapse, where the cord slips into the vagina prior to the birth of the baby
  • Vasa praevia, where blood vessels cross the cervix
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