Magic Umbilical Cords

I am amazed by just about everything having to do with birth….mothers, the creation of babies from a sperm and egg, the childbirth process, the placenta, the umbilical cord…

Aaahhhh….that umbilical cord. That magical connection that grows life. It filters, it provides, it knows when to start and it knows when baby no longer needs it.

 For more information about the umbilical cord and it’s importance at birth, please see my supplemental blog post here – Clamping Umbilical Cords

I’ve often tried to explain to people the incredible changes that happen at birth – including to the umbilical cord – but I’ve had a hard time finding images to demonstrate what I’m trying to explain.

Until now! I recently attended a birth and asked the mother permission to take photographs of her baby’s umbilical cord to document the changes it goes through after the birth – and she said yes!

Umbilical cords have two arteries and a vein that run the length of it. Those three vessels are surrounded by a special substance called Wharton’s Jelly. This jelly is thick and gelatinous when functional – this is to prevent the baby from accidentally causing it to kink and stop functioning (even true knots in the cord rarely cause problems because the Wharton’s Jelly prevents it from being able to tighten down and occlude blood flow to baby!)

When baby is born, this cord continues to function, providing the baby with not only blood and oxygen – but providing baby TIME! Time to transition to air breathing, experiencing the changes that babies go through at birth. As long as that cord is pulsing, it’s working for the baby the exact same way it did before the baby came out.

Once baby’s breathing and the cord is no longer needed, it goes through its own transformation. The Wharton’s Jelly in the cord begins to liquefy…tightening down on those vessels…clamping them off naturally. The cord slowly becomes thin, white, limp – dramatic changes from the thick purple pulsing entity it was when the baby was born!

Not clamping or cutting the cord until this transformation has occurred provides the baby with the benefit of extra blood, oxygen, gentleness and time!

Here you can see the magical changes of the cord! These pictures are ALL of the same umbilical cord…progressively taken over time.




Brand new! Right after birth the cord is thick, pulsing. We could actually SEE it thumping with the baby’s heartbeat.


There’s already a difference!! Look at how much thinner it is – less purple, less ‘tight’…


Less purple…thinner….


same piece of cord, same angle….now MUCH whiter, much thinner. But still not done with the transformation! You might think so though, huh! No…just wait.


NOW we are pretty much finished with the transformation. Compare this to the top picture of the same piece of cord….


Completely done, Wharton’s Jelly has liquified, the cord is not pulsing…it is thin, white, and very limp. Amazing!


And here they are all in a row for you to see…..


  1. Melissa J wrote:

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink
  2. Thank you so much for this series of photos! It is wonderful glimpse at the importance of delayed clamping! May I use this photo series in the education of birth doulas and CBE as well as new families? I will of course, give you credit for the fantastic pictures! Please let me know!

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  3. elfanie wrote:

    You bet Sharon…that’s why we took them, for educational purposes. =)

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  4. Trena wrote:

    This is so awesome Stephanie! Thank you.

    Friday, October 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  5. What a lovely project, the images are fantastic. Thanks for giving approval for others to educate with this photo essay!
    I will provide a link to this page from Cord-Clamping.Com 😀

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 1:16 am | Permalink
  6. Soshanna wrote:

    Fantastic! I have been looking for pictures to show my HypnoBirthing clients and these are perfect. Thank you for sharing.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 2:05 am | Permalink
  7. Tiffany wrote:

    Very nice!

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink
  8. Bernie wrote:

    Amazing photos.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 4:19 am | Permalink
  9. Suzi wrote:

    fascinating! just flicked through my photos after my daughter was born and watched the change in hers! amazing!

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink
  10. Shawn Walker wrote:

    Excellent .. you can even see how the arteries empty first, as the vein is still delivering blood back to the baby! Thanks so much for sharing. x

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  11. Noelani wrote:

    Awesome visuals! Now I can show my daughters & daughters in law.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Heather wrote:

    Beautiful series! I can’t help but ask… was this mama a VBAC? I think I see a cesarean scar.
    (I’m a VBAC mama myself, so I tend to look for it!).

    Either way, congrats to this mama. 🙂

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  13. elfanie wrote:

    No she was not a VBAC…this mother has had two children, both both with NHBS, both homebirths….

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  14. Adrienne wrote:

    Normalizing intact cords language comment…it’s not “extra” blood. It’s the baby’s full complement of blood. Babies whose cords are clamped prematurely are hypovolemic.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  15. What’s the time span between the first and last photo? Thanks for sharing!

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Juliana wrote:

    completely awe-mazing!

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  17. Linda wrote:

    Recently I heard that delaying cutting the cord can reduce the chances of autism spectrum disorders.

    Saturday, October 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  18. Mary wrote:

    What was the time at the first and last photos? I love how clearly this demonstrates nature taking care of physiological cord closure.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 12:15 am | Permalink
  19. elfanie wrote:

    As stated in the blog post….the time between the first and last pictures is approximately 15 minutes….

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink
  20. Sharon Zaunmayr wrote:

    thank you my sons were born in peace and freedom with midwives. The oord and placenta an integral part of their births. Not rushed nor neglected, not clamped, no hurry to “finish”. thank you so much

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  21. Karen wrote:

    First, excuse my english,I’m french !
    I saw that when i gave birth at home. But we did’nt cut anything, we would like wait that the ombilicom cord fall by itself. And the day after, the cord looks like a little dry peace of wood. The day n°3, the Navel was like mine !

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  22. Rachel Davis wrote:

    These photos are such a gift! Thank you for putting this together. I’m passing along your post right now.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Permalink
  23. Joy wrote:

    Very awesome! Question – how long did this transformation take place? I just had a baby three weeks ago and about 2 minutes after he was born the cord was that limp, white like your last image. I thought it took longer but perhaps it is different for everyone!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink
  24. Heather wrote:

    That’s incredible. I would also like to use those photos for a client handout on delayed cord clamping. Thank you so much for sharing them. 🙂

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  25. Stacy Lewis wrote:

    These are amazing images! I always tell my clients about delaying the cord and they ask what it looks like. Now I have a great place to point them to. Thank you so much!

    Monday, October 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  26. haylee wrote:

    I have picture of a cord with three true knots if you would like them. The Dr.s were astonished that the baby was small but healthy.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  27. tammy wrote:

    Excellent post, with great pics! Thank you so much for sharing this. 🙂

    Friday, October 21, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  28. Wow! Those are cool photos. What a great idea to photograph a time sequence. It really shows how beautifully the birth process is designed to work by Nature.

    Friday, October 21, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  29. Tamara Curry wrote:

    Thank you for sharing this. After seeing these photos, it REALLY makes no sense to clamp the cord! The photos help make the information click.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  30. Sam wrote:

    Another “normalizing” comment – prematurely amputating (or cutting the cord before it is done doing its job) increases the risk of autism, lifelong anemia and circulation difficulties.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  31. Manda wrote:

    Very cool. Thank you for the information and photos!

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  32. Leah wrote:

    I am due to have a baby in January and my Aunty who is a Midwife told me not to clamp or cut the cord till it stops pulsing, it is great to see her advise backed up. Thanks.

    Friday, November 18, 2011 at 12:43 am | Permalink
  33. This is fabulous! These pictures are awesome. This is a must share. Thank you!

    Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  34. What a great idea to photograph the changes. Thanks for doing that. This photo series is a wonderful educational tool. Took me years to fully appreciate what was happening in the cord and the way the placenta and cord sustained the baby through those first minutes after birth (variable for everyone). The routine practice of immediately clamping and cutting the cord in medically dominated birth places is gradually being recognised as harmful and photos like this help to graphically demonstrate why that may be so. Thanks again for sharing these photos.

    Saturday, November 19, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
  35. Maura Barnett wrote:

    I have been longing for this information! Thank you so much for such a great description, information and visual display!! Great work and thank you so much. I want a home birth and this is a huge piece of my puzzle.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  36. Ola A wrote:

    Marvelous pictures. Very instructive. I lecture about cord clamping and would like to have your permission to use these photos.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011 at 2:45 am | Permalink
  37. Mary Lanser wrote:

    Of course, it makes perfect sense not to rush cutting the cord that has sustained the babies life for 9 months. Hospitals get in such a hurry to hurry the process along…. and so unnecessary!

    Sunday, December 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink
  38. Cord Blood wrote:

    oh golly this is incredible pictures of cord blood.this should be banked!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  39. elfanie wrote:

    Why should it be banked instead of given to the baby? Why steal from this baby what is hers?

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  40. Jenni Fernandez wrote:

    Hi there – i teach antenatal classes and hypnobirthing classes in New Zealand – great photos – may i copy and use them as well for educational purposes? giving credit of course as well

    Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink
  41. Charlotte wrote:


    I am writing an essay about cord clamping and your pictures are just what I have been looking for. Would I be able to use them in my essay?


    Friday, December 9, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink
  42. Kristin wrote:

    Thank you so much for these images! I will share them with my new mother friends. I wish I had had these when I was giving birth. When I asked my doctor about waiting to cut the cord, she acted like that was the craziest thing she had ever heard and questioned me on why I would ask such a question. If only I had had such striking information, perhaps I would have done a better job of responding.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  43. Barbara Graves, CNM wrote:

    I often teach newborn transition and Evidence-based newborn care. These pictures are amazing. May I have permission to use them in my seminars?

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  44. Barbara Graves, CNM wrote:

    Do you have the information on the timing of the cord pictures between the right after birth and the 15 min picture?

    Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

6 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Nuturing Hearts Birth Services’ website you can see a sequence of amazing photos taken of a cord after birth as it finished transferring […]

  2. […] Here we have a series of photos, taken over a 15 minute period where baby was outside the womb, the placenta still attached to mom on the inside.  You can see how the blood drains into the baby and how the cord withers when it it no longer needed:  Photo Series of the Umbilical Cord after birth […]

  3. […] hospitals ask our newborn infants to transition into the world this way as a matter of routine. via Nurturing Hearts Birth Services   ~Inspiration of the […]

  4. […] hospitals ask our newborn infants to transition into the world this way as a matter of routine. via Nurturing Hearts Birth Services   ~Inspiration of the […]

  5. The BabyLove Blog » 2011 » December » 01 on Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    […] after birth.  If you need more visuals to see what an important process delayed clamping is, check out this series of pictures taken of an umbilical cord.  And if you’re the kind of person to be interested in […]

  6. Delayed cord clamping pictures « misskalypso on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

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