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Your Pregnancy After 35 : How Your Baby Grows and Develops (part 2) - The Umbilical Cord, The Amniotic Sac

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5. The Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord is the connection between your baby and the placenta. It is usually about 24 inches (60cm) long. The cord is gray or white, coiled or lumpy, and contains two arteries to carry baby’s blood to the placenta, where it absorbs oxygen and nutrients. A vein in the umbilical cord carries blood and nutrients back to the baby.

Rarely knots form in an umbilical cord. Experts believe knots form as the baby moves around early in pregnancy. A loop forms in the umbilical cord, and when the baby moves through the loop, a knot is completed. You can’t do anything to prevent it.

You may have heard about saving blood from your baby’s umbilical cord for future use or for donation for use by others. 

6. The Amniotic Sac

The amniotic sac is a bag inside your uterus that contains your baby and the amniotic fluid surrounding it. Early in pregnancy, amniotic fluid comes from the amniotic membrane covering the placenta and cord. Later in pregnancy, the fluid is mainly composed of fetal urine and fluid excreted by fetal lungs.

As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of amniotic fluid produced increases. This continues until close to the time of delivery, when it begins to decrease.

Amniotic fluid keeps the sac from collapsing and enables the baby to move around so muscles and joints can develop. Fluid regulates temperature and cushions the fetus from injury. It also helps a baby’s lungs to mature, as fluid passes into and out of fetal lungs when the baby’s chest moves in and out in a type of “breathing.”

By 21 weeks, the fetal digestive system has developed enough to enable the fetus to swallow amniotic fluid. The fetus absorbs much of the water contained in the swallowed fluid.

Swallowing amniotic fluid may encourage development of the fetal digestive system. It may condition the digestive system to function after birth. By term, a baby may swallow large amounts of amniotic fluid—as much as 17 ounces (500ml) of amniotic fluid in a 24-hour period.

Amniotic fluid is an important gauge of fetal well-being. If you have amniocentesis, amniotic fluid is removed from your uterus for study. The amount of fluid can also be an indication of fetal health; ultrasound is used to evaluate the amount of fluid in the sac. Too much fluid may indicate a malformation in the spinal cord or digestive system. Too little may signal fetal bladder or kidney problems.

7. The Presence of Meconium

The term meconium refers to undigested debris from swallowed amniotic fluid in the fetal digestive system. Meconium is a greenish-black to light-brown substance your baby may pass from its bowels into amniotic fluid. This can happen before or at the time of delivery.

The presence of meconium in amniotic fluid may be caused by fetal stress, although not always. The baby can swallow meconium in the amniotic fluid just before birth or at the time of birth. If inhaled into the lungs, meconium may cause pneumonia or pneumonitis.

Meconium can be detected when your water breaks. Before then, the only way to know about it is by amniocentesis. If meconium is present at delivery, an attempt is made to remove it from the baby’s mouth and throat with a small suction tube so the baby won’t swallow it.

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