The umbilical cord is a life-sustaining tube that connects your baby to your placenta. Some issues can develop with the cord during pregnancy. After birth, it’s easy to care for your baby’s cord stump by keeping it clean and dry.

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The umbilical cord is vital during pregnancy but is not needed after your baby is born. Various umbilical cord issues can happen during pregnancy and birth, but most umbilical cord conditions are rare.

After birth, your baby’s umbilical cord is cut. It becomes a stump that will fall off. Caring for this area is crucial to ensure a smooth healing process.

The best practice for managing your baby’s umbilical cord is the simple and effective dry care method.

After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed. It is clamped and cut, leaving a short stump. A nurse removes the clamp after 1 or 2 days.

The stump will fall off within about 1–2 weeks. One large 2020 study found that the average time is about 7 days.

Caring for the cord stump is easy. Evidence tells us that in most situations, less is better. Using alcohol or chlorhexidine can make healing take longer and does not decrease the risk of infection.

Taking care of your baby’s umbilical cord stump is simple using the dry care method. Treat the area by doing the following:

  • Keep the cord stump dry.
  • If secretions are present or poop gets on the cord, clean the area with plain water or soap and water and pat it dry.
  • You may need to push down on the skin and move the cord to clean the secretions away.
  • Expose the area to air.
  • Fold down your baby’s diaper so it doesn’t touch the stump.
  • Stick to sponge baths until the cord falls off.

After the cord falls off, keep baby’s belly button clean and dry. It is common for the middle to look red or ooze some secretions. Continue to clean away any secretions with soap and water. The area will gradually heal.

There is a slight risk that the umbilical cord can become infected. Such an infection is called omphalitis. It happens in only about 1 in 1,000 babies receiving dry care that live in countries, like the United States, with high quality healthcare.

Cord infections can lead to serious complications. Contact your pediatrician if your baby has any of the following signs of infection or other possible complications:

  • foul-smelling yellowish discharge
  • red or tender skin around the base
  • crying when you touch the cord area
  • bleeding from the cord
  • fever of 100.4°F (38°C)
  • behavior changes, including being lethargic or irritable
  • a cord has not fallen off after 3 weeks
  • a small lump of red tissue that develops inside the belly button

The umbilical cord is the connection between you and your baby. The cord is present at 5 weeks of pregnancy. It matures and connects your fetus to your placenta.

The umbilical cord is typically coiled. It contains three blood vessels: one vein and two arteries. A substance called Wharton’s jelly forms the bulk of the cord. This squishy substance cushions and protects the blood vessels.

The umbilical cord vein provides oxygen and nutrients from your blood directly to the fetal blood. The two arteries remove waste products from the fetal circulation. There isn’t any mixing of the blood going to and from your baby.

Several issues can happen with the umbilical cord during pregnancy. Most of these are rare occurrences, but each one has certain risks. Ultrasound can detect some umbilical cord conditions.

Umbilical cord conditions during pregnancy include:

  • Cord prolapse: This is a medical emergency. A cord prolapse happens when the cord falls into your vagina in front of your baby during labor and delivery.
  • Nuchal cord: A nuchal cord is when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around your baby’s neck. This condition happens in about 20-35% of full-term single births. It is the most common problem with the umbilical cord. Most of the time, it doesn’t cause serious complications.
  • Umbilical cord knot: Knots in the umbilical cord can form during pregnancy when your baby moves around a lot. Knots are a risk for miscarriage or fetal death because they can limit or stop blood flow to the baby.
  • Single umbilical artery: A single umbilical artery is when one artery in the cord is missing. This condition is often called a two-vessel cord. Sometimes, a single umbilical artery can indicate other problems with your baby’s kidneys or digestive system.
  • Vasa previa: A vasa previa is when one or more of the blood vessels in the cord grows over your cervix. This is a dangerous condition and usually requires a cesarean delivery.
  • Umbilical cord cyst: Umbilical cord cysts are sacs of fluid in the cord. Cysts can indicate a chromosomal problem. Your doctor will likely order additional tests.
  • Extra long or short cord: Umbilical cords can be extra long or short. Usually, a short or long cord does not cause a problem. On occasion, though, a short cord can tear away from the placenta. A long cord may wrap around your baby’s body or neck.

Although serious complications from conditions of the umbilical cord are rare, some umbilical cord concerns can be dangerous for your baby.

Are there any home remedies for speeding up the healing process of the umbilical cord stump?

No home methods have been demonstrated to safely speed up cord stump healing. Evidence from 2020 indicates that the dryer you can keep the stump, the faster it will heal.

Is it typical for the umbilical cord stump to bleed slightly after it falls off?

Yes, it is common for there to be slight bleeding when the stump falls off. A scab may form and fall off naturally as the skin underneath heals. Pulling on the cord won’t speed up the falling-off process. In fact, pulling on the cord can cause excessive bleeding.

A knot in the umbilical cord sounds scary. How common is it?

A knot in the cord is very rare. It is estimated to occur in only about 0.4—1.2% of births. A knot is more likely to occur if the cord is long, and there’s no way to prevent a knot from happening.

Certain complications like cord prolapse or knots can occur during pregnancy, but they are uncommon. After pregnancy, caring for your baby’s umbilical cord stump is easy with the dry care method.

If you have concerns about umbilical cord conditions, contact your healthcare professional.