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6. The Purpose, Composition, Care, and Possible Complications of the Umbilical Cord

a. The umbilical cord functions as the lifeline, connecting the fetus with the mother's placenta, allowing for the exchange of oxygen and nutrients.

b. It is composed of a jelly-like substance that begins to dry when exposed to the air. At delivery, it is clamped and cut. Within 7 to 10 days the stump will dry, turn black, and fall off.

c. Usually, mothers will have been given specific instructions in cord care by the physician/practitioner/nurse. Most instructions include the use of a drying agent such as alcohol with each diaper change. 

If a drying agent is used, dab on the cord gently, covering the entire area.

d. Never pull on the cord. Let it fall off by itself. Laying the infant on the abdomen will not hurt the cord. Use of binders or belly bands is not recommended.

e. Problems with the cord that should be reported to your physician/practitioner, include the following.

1) Foul odor of cord area

2) Purulent material (pus)

3) Bleeding, other than a few drops when the cord falls off

4) Red and sore appearance; skin around area warmer than usual

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. f. Do not allow the diaper to cover the cord area because this will delay the drying process. If allowed to be wet, the cord may become infected.
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lsb 05/30/2002