A systematic search of studies of intrapartum management of the nuchal umbilical cord at term found no published controlled studies in this area. A postal survey containing both structured and open questions and a request for local protocols and guidelines was sent to all 637 midwives in 7 maternity units in England. There were 401 (63%) responses. There appeared to be no unit guidelines for this area of practice. Midwife approaches to nuchal cord during birth varied, and included clamping and cutting of loose nuchal cords and a hands-off approach to tight nuchal cords. Reasons for specific actions included doing what had been taught during midwifery training and learning from previous personal experiences. Theories of diffusion of innovation and of planned behaviour may provide a conceptual basis for understanding the adoption of specific practices. Future qualitative and controlled studies are needed to explore the nature and consequences of varying approaches to intrapartum nuchal cord management.