This image shows a typical chin-on-the-chest position with an arm held up to the side of the face. A knee is just visible on the left with a loop of umbilical cord next to it. Your baby is now likely to be in a head-down position but there’s still time to change.
The coiled umbilical cord connects your baby to the placenta, his life-support system until birth.
Most umbilical cords finally grow to be about the same length as the baby (although there are exceptions), reaching a final length of 50–60cm (20–23.5in). The umbilical cord has up to 40 turns along its length and these turns are seven times more likely to twist to the left than the right. The coiling pattern was in place nine weeks after conception, with more coils at the baby’s end than the placental end; this may be a response to your baby’s movements. The cord contains three blood vessels: two arteries taking deoxygenated blood and waste from your baby to the placenta and one vein carrying oxygen-rich blood from the placenta to the baby. The cord diameter is usually less than 2cm(in) and the blood vessels are embedded in and protected by a layer of jelly. The watery composition of the jelly, together with the cord’s coiling pattern, prevents compression of the cord.
After the birth, your midwife will check the number of vessels in the cord as in 1 per cent of pregnancies the cord contains only one umbilical artery.
If my baby is a low birthweight, will he have health problems?
A low birthweight is less than 2.5kg (5lb) and although the majority of small babies thrive, some do have difficulties. Most low birthweight babies are small because they are premature. There are many ways you can reduce the risk of your baby being a low birthweight: eating adequate amounts of healthy food to gain the right amount of weight, not smoking or drinking alcohol, reducing stress, and keeping all antenatal appointments so that your health – and your baby – can be monitored.
Some pregnant women experience restless legs syndrome (RLS), whereby they have an irresistible urge to move their legs. It most commonly happens while resting, so can be very disruptive to sleep. The exact cause isn’t known but it may be related to an imbalance of a brain chemical called dopamine. The level of dopamine can be affected by a lack of iron. Restless legs syndrome will pass once you’re no longer pregnant. To minimize the effects of restless legs syndrome:
Ensure your diet includes an adequate intake of iron.
If you’re in bed when you get restless legs, don’t lie there and suffer: get out of bed and fill a bowl with cold water and soak your feet until they feel freezing cold. When you get back in to bed, try raising your feet on a pile of pillows.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, and before bed try to eat something that contains tryptophan – the amino acid that encourages sleep and relaxation. Also avoid exercising close to your bedtime.
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