From the sixth week of pregnancy until birth there is an umbilical cord that connects the developing fetus to the mother through the placenta. It exists as a lifeline that supplies the developing fetus with oxygen, nutrition and a route for waste elimination while the fetus is within the womb.
At birth, the baby is able to breathe, eat, and void by itself. The umbilical cord is no longer necessary and is clamped and cut shortly after delivery.
The remaining cord after baby’s birth requires proper care to heal and drop off naturally. This occurs usually within 2 weeks after birth.
There are two conditions that will require prompt medical care. These are:
• Umbilical granuloma: This is a persistent, yellow-green drainage from the belly button, no redness, warmth, swelling or tenderness of the surrounding skin is present. Fever will not usually be present. A small nodule of firm, pinkish-red tissue represents an umbilical granuloma. This condition can be treated successfully in the doctor’s office. • Patent urachus: Top of baby’s diaper continuously wet, or fluid leaking from the belly button could represent a “rare” condition where the normal connection between the fetal bladder and the umbilical cord has remained open after the birth of the baby. Call your doctor if you notice these symptoms. Conditions that require immediate emergency room evaluation include: • Any redness, warmth, swelling, or tenderness in the skin around the belly button, or “lots” of discharge from it, especially if the discharge smells bad. This could be omphalitis, which is a potentially life-threatening infection of the umbilical stump and the surrounding area. This condition requires prompt evaluation and treatment in the hospital.
Umbilical cord treatment after birth:
• During the first hour after delivery and usually following the baby’s first bath, the umbilical stump is treated with an antibiotic applied directly onto it, to decrease the chance for infection. • Twenty-four hours after delivery, the clamp can be removed from the stump. It is best to be sure this clamp is removed at the hospital before you take your baby home. If it is not removed at the hospital there is a chance the clamp can get stuck during home diaper changes and can pull on and injure the stump. Umbilical cord treatment and self-care at home includes: • Little is required to care for the stump once you are home with the baby. Wipe the stump and the surrounding skin area with rubbing alcohol two to three times a day until the stump falls off. If you notice a small amount of yellowish ooze or even a drop of blood at this time, this is normal and no cause for concern. • Keep the area dry. This is very important and the reasons why you are not suppose to bathe the baby until later. • You can help with cord care by keeping the diaper rolled out and down (so the inside of the diaper is showing) to allow the stump to be exposed to the air keeping it dry. The rolled diaper will not trap the cord inside the diaper. If you roll the diaper in and down, it will place the plastic outer side of the diaper against the stomach and make the baby uncomfortable. • The cord usually falls off within the first 2 weeks. At this time, you might notice a small, pinkish area in the bottom of the belly button that will not look like the rest of the skin. This is normal and expected. Normal skin will grow over it. Once this occurs, it is safe to give your baby a bath.
There is no means of preventing granuloma, urachus and opmhalitis. Antibiotics can be given to prevent recurring bladder infections. The steps performed from moment the cord is cut with a sterile blade, to the antibiotic applied to prevent infection, to the need to keep the cord dry, are all precautions aimed at preventing the serious condition of omphalitis. If your baby develops any of the three conditions mentioned, once treated, all conditions have excellent outcomes.
*Important Disclaimer: This article is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any kind of a health problem. Please consult a qualified Health Care Professional for all your health care needs including the use of information provided in this article.
Source: eMedicineHealth, which is a first aid and consumer health information site written by physicians for patients and consumers.
By Connie Limon
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