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  • Erin Elise

Umbilical Cord Length

Over the past year I've had a couple births where the babies have had a short cord. My first was a birth I photographed at the Puget Sound Birth Center in Kirkland, Wa. I arrived a little early, active labor hadn't started yet. Mom and Dad were walking to get things moving and once they did things went quickly. This was a second time mom, and a true birth pro! She labored quietly and when things got uncomfortable switched positions to birth on a CUB. It is like a birthing ball only it is shaped like a U and allows space for mom to drape over it with her belly unobstructed. She roared her baby boy into the world while dad caught him with the assistance of the Midwife, it was awesome to watch. Dad held baby close to mom as she maneuvered to her back. Once she got settled, they discovered that he wouldn't be able to be laid on her chest, so he rested on her lower belly until the cord stopped pulsing and was clamped and cut.

The second birth was a home birth. I got the call just after midnight. I grabbed my camera and headed out quickly because I could hear mom in the background working hard, obviously in active labor. When I got there her doula and midwife were already there attending to her. She worked through each contraction with her husband right by her side the entire time. This was a 3rd time mom, she had a very clear birth plan and knew she was capable of birthing her baby naturally and in the comfort of her own home. She made noise, moved when she needed to, and when it was time to push, she listened to her body. Her baby boys head was birthed and then her body calmed, so they waited for a moment. Her midwife encouraged her to reach down and touch her baby's head. Once her body was ready again, she pushed once or twice more, and he came was fully born. They actually waited to find out what they were having, so when he was laid on her lower abdomen the first thing, they asked was whether it was a boy or girl, and with 2 older sisters this boy was a huge surprise!!

I don't usually run into short cords, so it got me thinking about averages and what occurs to develop a short cord?

In looking into it there are a mess of theories about cord length. Some of it is obscure, like relating a baby to a fish in a bowl, the more room the baby has to move around the longer the cord becomes because it gets stretched as they move. Leonardo da Vinci theorized that the cord is as long as the baby. However the umbilical cord reaches its full length at 28 weeks. The average cord is between 17-24 inches long. Short cords occur in less than 6% of pregnancies and are considered short when they measure less than 13 or 14 inches long. Although twins can share a placenta, they have their own cords that can differ in length. There is no clear reason behind cord length, or lack thereof. Most providers want to see a good healthy cord with two arteries that can bring in what's needed, oxygen and nutrients, and take waste back to the placenta. A healthy baby is what matters most!!


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Seattle Washington Birth Photographer
erin@erinelisephotography.com | 425.463.8554
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