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What Types of Umbilical Cord Injuries Can Occur During Childbirth?

Published on Jan 9, 2020 at 10:44 am in Birth Injury.

Baby wrapped in pink blanket with feet exposed

Before getting pregnant, you might think that pregnancy will be a breeze. But in reality, there are unfortunately so many things that could go wrong with the baby in those nine months. Even in the final trimester, there can be serious injuries to a baby, especially to their umbilical cord.

The most stressful part is that most times, there’s nothing you can do to prevent these injuries from happening. Birth injuries like umbilical cord complications can be traumatic for the baby and family alike. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that umbilical cord injuries account for 28% of fetal deaths.

Compression of the umbilical cord, which is a general explanation for most of the specific conditions below, accounts for six percent of fetal deaths, according to that same CDC report. Though that percentage sounds small, it accounts for over 500 babies.

Here are some things that can go wrong with your baby’s umbilical cord, ordered from least to most dangerous to the baby:

Cord Knots

Umbilical cord knots could be considered the least dangerous of the cord complications because the knots are usually loose. When a baby moves around in the womb, their cord can sometimes tangle into a knot. When the knot is loose, it doesn’t affect the fetus much because they are still able to get full nutrients.

But during childbirth, sometimes that knot can tighten, causing the baby to lose oxygen and nutrients. While doctors can usually work quickly when this happens, sometimes cord knot cases can lead to fetal death because they go without oxygen for too long.

Nuchal Cord

When an umbilical cord is wrapped around a baby’s neck, it’s called a nuchal cord. If the cord is wrapped tightly, it can be dangerous, and even fatal, for the fetus. If the nuchal cord is “unlocked,” the fetus is likely to undo it with their movement around the womb. If the cord is “locked,” it cannot be undone by any fetal movement because it is wrapped tightly, and has formed what is called a “true knot.”

Even though nuchal cords can prove to be life-threatening in cases where it’s wrapped very tightly or knotted, they’re actually fairly common in babies and usually cause no harm. In fact, nuchal cords occur in up to 30% of fetuses, according to an article by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Cord Prolapse

A prolapsed umbilical cord is when the cord enters the birth canal before the fetus during birth. This can cause the above conditions, like knots and wrapping around the infant. This can make compressions in the cord and reduce oxygen to the baby, which can be dangerous. The baby’s heart rate and blood pressure could lower, making brain damage a very real risk for your baby.

Thankfully, this isn’t a very common occurrence. The CDC reports that less than one percent of fetuses die from a prolapsed umbilical cord.

Umbilical Cord Stricture

Also known as torsion or over coiling, umbilical cord stricture is the most dangerous scenario for your baby. The cord can keep twisting back on itself and can eventually completely block the blood and oxygen supply to the fetus. Umbilical stricture typically happens in the second trimester and the cause is generally unknown. Though cord torsion is rare, if it happens, it can quickly lead to death.

Though there’s not much you can do to prevent cord complications from happening, visiting your doctor is always helpful. If you feel less fetal movements, then it’s possible your baby has a problem with its cord, and your physician can likely fix the problem quickly for you. Still, birth injuries can happen from cord complications.

If the delivery of your baby produced birth injuries, you could use our help. At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we have experienced Charleston birth injury lawyers who know exactly what to do to best fight for you. Contact us today so that we can talk about your case and the next steps to take.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice. Viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Prior case results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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