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What Are the Common Causes of Umbilical Bleeding in Newborns?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The umbilical cord connects a baby to its mother while it is growing and developing in the womb. When a baby is born the umbilical cord, no longer necessary, is tied tightly and cut. Most of the time, the stump of the cord dries up and falls off of the baby without incident. Sometimes, there can be issues that result in umbilical bleeding in the newborn. Typical causes include a failure to heal properly, getting caught on the baby's clothing, and being pulled off before it is ready.

One of the most common causes of umbilical bleeding in newborns is the baby’s diaper or clothing rubbing against the cord. When this happens, it can remove the scab and cause it to bleed, though usually not significantly. This is typically not cause for concern, though if the bleeding persists for more than a few days most medical professionals recommend the child be seen by his or her doctor.

The problem can be minimized by folding down the front of the diaper. This leaves the umbilical area exposed, which allows the cord stump to dry out. Additionally, it prevents the diaper from rubbing against the umbilical area.

When the baby’s cord stump is almost ready to fall off and is barely connected to the baby, it is not uncommon for a parent to pull it the rest of the way off, or for the stump to get snagged by some clothing. Even if the cord is barely attached, pulling it off of a baby in this way can cause umbilical bleeding in newborns. The stump should never be pulled or cut off of the baby, but should be allowed to fall off when it is ready, which will greatly minimize chances of bleeding.

Umbilical bleeding in newborns can also be caused by incomplete healing of the umbilical cord area, which happens for a number of reasons. Slight pressure on the area with a few gauze pads can help to stop such bleeding quickly. As with other umbilical cord bleeding, it is most likely no cause for concern. A small bit of blood on the diaper or baby’s clothing is normal in this case. If the umbilical site is oozing blood and it doesn’t stop within 15 minutes, or if there is a significant amount of blood, the baby should be seen by a doctor immediately, to prevent any possible complications.

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Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Jul 30, 2013

Sometimes newborn umbilical bleeding lasts a long time because even though it crusts up, it can bleed again when the baby moves around or cries.

By literally45 — On Jul 29, 2013

@fBoyle-- My daughter's umbilical cord had fallen off around the same time too and she also had a little bit of bleeding afterward. It's normal, but you have to make sure to keep her belly button clean and avoid irritation from diapers and clothes. Fold the top of the diaper down like the article said.

The bleeding should disappear in a few days as the belly button heals. If it doesn't, then take her to a doctor.

By fBoyle — On Jul 29, 2013

My son's umbilical cord fell off after four days and I have been noticing some minor bleeding daily since then. It's just a few drops of blood I find on his clothes or his towel after a bath. If there was major bleeding, I would have certainly rushed him to the doctor. But it's just a drop of blood here and there.

Is this normal? How long will it continue for? Do I need to do anything about it?

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