intensely trivial

Nuchal cord sensationalism

Since I started getting interested in birth, and then started doula-ing, I’ve noticed that people tend to get terrified of “the cord being around the baby’s neck.” (The medical term for this is a “nuchal cord.”) I admit, it sounded pretty scary to me, too. You wrap something around my neck and pull it tight enough, and I won’t be able to breathe! Makes sense, right?
Then I attended my first birth, where the nurse-midwife, under fairly dim lights, calmly caught the baby as she slithered out, quietly said to the nurse standing by, “Nuchal cord,” and slipped the cord over the baby’s head. I don’t think the mom even noticed it, and the midwife didn’t tell her directly. The baby was totally fine. I was surprised at how calmly the midwife handled it; it gave me some food for thought.
Just listen to people in conversations: Umbilical cords and all their variations tend to freak people out. The March of Dimes website says that 25 percent of babies are born with a nuchal cord. If we get worried about 25 percent of all babies just because of their nuchal cords, there we go, once again, down the road to terror over a normal bodily process.
I think for us regular people, here’s what we need to understand:
“The most important thing to keep in mind is that unborn babies do not breathe through their mouth and neck – they receive oxygen through the umbilical cord. This is why it normally doesn’t matter if the cord is around the neck (unless the cord is being compressed too much, which is fairly rare). The baby cannot “choke to death” before she/he is born. What we can conclude from the overwhelming majority of data is that nuchal cord – or “cord around the neck” – is not pathological; that is to say, it’s not an abnormality. It is a normal condition of the umbilical cord and typically causes no problems with the delivery, even though doctors frequently try to convince parents otherwise.”
Go to this article to read more.


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  1. You know…I always wondered why this really mattered…

    Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  2. * Nicole says:

    Nuchal cords are definitely a common part of labor and delivery and not really a cause for alarm and I too am often amazed a the sensationalism associated with them!! Whenever I hear people going on about so and so’s baby being born with the cord around the neck I calmly tell them this is pretty common. Can it cause a problem at delivery? It can but I have RARELY seen one and often the problem is not caused by the nuchal cord itself but by the birth attendants mishandling of the cord!

    Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  3. * Morgan says:

    How did I not realize this was a blog? I’m slow but I get there. 🙂 You’re awesome. Love ya!

    Posted 8 years, 11 months ago
  4. This is such an interesting topic and inspired my PhD research. I have written a couple of articles based on a literature review of nuchal cords and written about it in my blog. It is the management of the nuchal cord not the nuchal cord that causes the problems.
    I wish we could get the message out there to the general public – there is so much fear around this extremely common (3rd of all births) scenario.
    Thanks for helping to get the message out there.

    Posted 7 years, 10 months ago
  5. * Jaz says:

    It was a tight cord that I clamped and cut that was followed by a shoulder dystocia that got me thinking!A couple of my colleagues did a literature search and as a result we no longer “check for cord”. I think that that combined with delayed cord clamping definitely gives a better outcome

    Posted 7 years, 9 months ago

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