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Pregnancy 101: Vernix Caseosa

17 December 2014

In the simplest terms, Vernix Caseosa is the waxy substance that covers a newborn infant immediately following birth. This substance has a white patchy appearance that covers most of the head and body before the baby is cleaned.

Coming from the Latin words Vernix meaning varnish and Caseosa meaning cheesy; it may seem a little gross, but Vernix Caseosa actually has some very important functions. From a biological perspective, Vernix Caseosa provides electrical isolation for the foetus which is an essential part of development, it provides an insulation and waterproof barrier that prevents heat loss in the moments following birth, and it also it provides additional lubrication that helps the baby move through the birth canal more easily. It can also provide a barrier that protects delicate newborn skin and can prevent the passage of bacteria.

Vernix Caseosa begins to develop in the womb at 18 weeks and contains a range of elements including fatty acids, lipids, cholesterol, ceramide, squalene, wax ester and sterol ester. It may look a bit weird, but it provides a very important role to the development and birth of a healthy child.

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