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9 Amazing Facts About The Umbilical Cord, Explained By Science

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Although it's not anatomically part of your baby, the umbilical cord plays a vital role in their development and is much more than just a tube for transporting nutrition. Most people know that the umbilical cord is a baby's "life line," but there are so many other amazing facts about the umbilical cord that will make you think about it just a little more.

But before you can get to the interesting facts, you have to know some basic information about your baby's life line. According to Family Education, the umbilical cord connects your baby to the placenta, which is attached to your uterus and acts as the source of your baby's nutrients and oxygen. Blood flows in and out of the umbilical cord via three vessels: two arteries, which carry blood away from your baby and to the placenta, and one vein, which carries blood back to your growing baby.

The umbilical cord sustains your baby during their time in the womb, and then, in most cases, is clamped and discarded without a thought. But, believe it or not, the umbilical cord is much more than a lifeline and scientists are still discovering it's potential both in and out of the womb. Here are just some surprising facts about the tiny tubs that keeps your baby alive.

1Tangles And Loops Aren't A Big Deal Most Of The Time

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Most moms are terrified at the thought of their baby's umbilical cord getting knotted or looped around baby's neck. Although there is a small risk of it becoming dangerous, Belly Belly noted that loops and knots are actually very common and rarely dangerous. The danger lies in a knot forming during labor, but since your baby moves so much in utereo, the occasional loop or knot is inevitable

2It Grows With Your Baby

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The umbilical cord doesn't start off as long as it is when your baby is born. According to the March of Dimes, it begins forming at about four weeks and can grow to be as long as 22 inches.

3Your Health Affects The Umbilical Cord's Health

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Since the umbilical cord is a baby's main source of nutrients from the mother, it follows that an unhealthy mother would contribute to an unhealthy umbilical cord. One study from Reuters noted that in mothers who smoked during pregnancy, methylation patterns were foundd in blood cells in the umbilical cord, as well as in the baby's system.

4The Cord "Shuts Off" After Birth

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Lately, many parents are opting to not clamp the cord at all, or at least delay clamping significantly. It turns out that clamping the cord isn't completely necessary. According to ABC News, it shuts off on its own about an hour after birth. The cord will dry up and fall off on it's own, just like the stump does traditionally, after about a week or so.

5Umbilical Cord Blood Can Save A Baby's Life

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Cord blood banking is a common practice that can help to save another baby or child's life. According to Baby Center, you can choose to donate your baby's umbilical cord blood or save it in a personal bank for your families future use.

6Delayed Clamping Can Have Major Benefits

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According to NPR, even delayed cord clamping has been shown to give baby a neurological boost in development that can benefit them for years down the road. Delaying the clamping also allows more blood to flow from the placenta to the baby, which can significantly increase baby's blood volume and iron levels, which are essential for healthy brain development.

7It Determines Your Baby's Belly Button Shape

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Have you ever wondered why some babies have "innies" and others have "outies?" It turns out that the shape of their belly button is determined long before birth. According to Everyday Health, belly button shape is "caused" by a wide variety of things like belly shape, amount of scar tissue where the cord connects to the belly, looseness of the skin and more.

8It Forms Right After Fertilization

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Although the cord won't look like a true "cord" for several weeks, the placenta and umbilical cord begin forming soon after baby is conceived, Today's Parent noted. The fertilized egg turns into two components: one is the embryo that will develop into your baby, and the other is the placenta. The umbilical cord develops out of the embryonic tissue and continues to grow until your baby is born.

9It Might Be The Future Of Science

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Researchers are studying umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells for their "potential use for therapeutic application for nonhematopoietic tissue and cell regeneration," according to one study from the National Institutes of Health. Unlike research on other embryonic stem cells, UCB stem cells have less of an ethical debate and have equal potential, research suggests.