We used to think that once a baby was born, the umbilical cord had served its purpose, so we threw it away.
Now we know better.
The umbilical cord is a baby’s first lifeline. It connects mother and child throughout pregnancy, growing as they grow and nourishing the developing foetus.
The muscular walls of the cord are strong and flexible, and contain a rich gelatinous liquid called Wharton’s Jelly. This jelly protects the life-giving blood vessels of the umbilical cord: the umbilical vein and two umbilical arteries.
Oxygen, nutrients and antibodies pass between maternal blood and the umbilical vein; foetal waste travels from umbilical arteries to maternal blood.
This exchange of oxygen and nutrients is the support system for the developing foetus.
When the baby is born, it takes its first breath and its lungs fill with oxygen. The baby cries, feeds… then the new, lifelong bonds of family are formed.
But what about the umbilical cord, and the blood and jelly it contains?
In the UK the cord is usually treated as clinical waste; but sometimes it is preserved, and continues to be a lifeline for babies and their families.