What Are the Common Causes of Umbilical Bleeding?

A.E. Freeman

Umbilical bleeding is common after the remaining piece of umbilical cord falls off of a baby's naval. The umbilical cord stump usually falls off on its own after about 10 days. In some cases, active umbilical bleeding can occur if the stump is pulled off before it is ready. Friction from the baby's diaper can also cause bleeding. While some bleeding is normal, active bleeding can be a cause for concern.

A significant amount of umbilical cord bleeding should be reported to a doctor.
A significant amount of umbilical cord bleeding should be reported to a doctor.

The umbilical cord feeds the developing fetus nutrients while in the uterus. After the baby is born, the cord is cut and a small, 0.5-inch (1.27-cm) stump remains in the baby's bell button. Under normal circumstances, the stump shrivels up and falls off 10 to 56 days after the baby's birth.

Friction from a diaper rubbing against the umbilical area may cause umbilical bleeding.
Friction from a diaper rubbing against the umbilical area may cause umbilical bleeding.

If the stump falls off on its own, there may be a slight amount of umbilical bleeding. A parent may notice a little bit of blood immediately after the stump falls off or up to a week after it comes off. The bleeding can be stopped by wiping the area with a bit a gauze. When the blood is wiped away, more should not appear in the area.

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In some cases, the umbilical cord stump may come off before it has completely dried out. If the cord stump comes off too soon, active umbilical bleeding is likely to occur. Unlike bleeding that happens when the cord falls off on its own, active umbilical bleeding may need to be evaluated by a doctor.

Reasons for an early separation of an umbilical cord usually involve some sort of force. The stump can get stuck on something and tear off. A parent shouldn't try to tug on the stump, even if it looks ready to fall off.

Active bleeding means that the blood continues to flow from the area. A parent may wipe away the blood, only to have more appear in its place. Applying pressure for 10 minutes may be enough to make the bleeding stop. If it is not, the baby should be taken to a doctor immediately.

Friction from a diaper rubbing against the umbilical area, whether or not the stump is still attached, can also lead to umbilical bleeding. When the stump is still on the body, parents should position the diaper so that it does not rub against the stump. Some diapers for infants have a cut-out area around the navel so that the waist of diaper doesn't irritate the cord stump.

An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.
An umbilical cord is a thick, blood-rich cord that connects a baby to its mother during the gestation process.

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