What Is That White, Sticky Substance at Birth?

Newborns are covered in vernix, a fluid that protects them in the womb.,Newborns are covered in vernix, a fluid that protects them in the womb.

There is so much thought and preparation that goes into having a healthy pregnancy and preparing your home for after your baby is born. This often leaves little chance to consider what actually happens the moment your tiny tot makes his or her way into the world. You may be shocked to see the child covered in a sticky, white substance after birth. Read on to learn about vernix and why it’s important.

What is vernix?

Newborns don’t look like babies that are several days old. They’re often cone-headed, and their skin may look purplish or pruney. Babies are also covered in a whitish sticky fluid called the vernix. Despite all your research about pregnancy and birth, you may never have heard this term! Vernix protects the baby from amniotic fluid, which is acidic. Vernix prevents skin troubles and mitigates the risk of infection while in the womb.

It’s also a moisturizer that reduces the drying effects of the amniotic fluid. Some people prefer to rub the vernix into their newborn’s skin after birth instead of simply wiping it away for this very reason. Vernix also helps the child stay warm while he or she is inside the uterus.

“Vernix protects the child from the acidic amniotic fluid.”

Another wonderful aspect of vernix is that it helps the baby slide out during birth by serving as a lubricant. Vernix isn’t just coating the baby’s skin. It is actually inside the ears too, which shields them from sound and may muffle your voice while the child is in utero. The vernix will make its way out of the ears after birth within a few days or weeks, so don’t worry if you spot whitish gunk around the ear holes. Just wipe it away with a damp cloth.

It’s also not unusual to find vernix in the genital areas for weeks after birth, especially in the vaginal folds. Because it completely coated your baby during pregnancy, it’s difficult to get it all off at once. Lingering vernix is not damaging, so parents can choose to clean it off or leave it.

Some babies have their first poop in utero while others wait for several days after birth. In the event that your newborn passes waste shortly before birth, the vernix will not be white. Instead, he or she may be coated in a yellowish brown or green-tinted substance. That is a combination of meconium, or first poop, and vernix. This requires immediate cleaning so be sure to gently wipe down your baby with a damp cloth.

Your obstetrician, doula and or nurses will further explain vernix and its benefits once your child is born. There is so much going on in the moments right after birth, like taking your baby’s footprints and cleaning him or her off, that you might even miss the vernix all together. If you would prefer to not wipe your child off, be sure to convey this info to the doctors as they may do so without asking.