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Umbilical Cord Problems

pregnant motherEisbrouch Marsh files birth injury lawsuits against the doctors, hospitals, administrators, and all potentially liable parties who contributed to the harm of a baby before, during, and after delivery. Among the more prevalent causes of avoidable birth trauma we deal with concerns the incompetent handling of umbilical cord problems.

The umbilical cord is the fetus’ lifeline while in utero, carrying essential oxygen and nutrients. It is imperative that medical personnel monitor the condition of the umbilical cord during pregnancy and childbirth to promptly detect potential complications and respond quickly and competently to reduce risk to the fetus.

Types of umbilical cord problems

There are a number of potential umbilical cord problems that could arise during pregnancy or childbirth, including:

Umbilical cord compression

This complication occurs when pressure is placed on the umbilical cord, restricting blood flow to the unborn baby. Compression may occur when a limb gets stuck between the baby’s head and mother’s pubic bone. It can also happen when the cord wraps around the baby’s neck or body. While the baby can tolerate short instances of umbilical cord compression, prolonged pressure may result in oxygen deprivation that can lead to permanent brain damage.

Nuchal cord

A Nuchal cord occurs when the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck or body. This is a relatively common occurrence, happening in approximately 25 percent of all pregnancies. It does not typically cause birth complications. However, in rare instances, pressure on the cord can result in deprivation of blood and oxygen to the baby.

Umbilical cord knots

As the baby moves about the womb, an umbilical cord knot may also occur. Like the Nuchal cord, these knots rarely become tight enough to cause a serious problem. However, knots should be carefully monitored, to ensure they don’t tighten and lead to oxygen deprivation for the baby.

Single umbilical artery

The umbilical cord typically has three vessels; one vein that carries oxygen and nutrients to the baby, and two arteries used to remove waste. Some umbilical cords only develop one artery, which may increase the risk for some types of heart and central nervous system defects. If the single umbilical artery is detected through a routine ultrasound, the mother may be offered a variety of tests to determine whether birth defects might be a concern.

Umbilical cord cysts

These abnormal growths located directly on the umbilical cord might also increase the baby’s risk for birth defects. Common defects associated with umbilical cord cysts include chromosomal abnormalities and kidney defects. When cysts are detected, additional tests may be recommended to determine whether any defects are present.

Vasa previa

Vasa previa is characterized by the growth of the umbilical cord and blood vessels outside the amniotic sac. It is one of the more serious umbilical cord problems, because the blood vessels can burst from pressure during delivery. The large majority of babies with this issue will be stillborn if the problem is not detected early enough to perform an emergency Cesarean delivery. Vasa previa may be diagnosed during a routine ultrasound, allowing the physician to take the proper precautions during delivery.

Umbilical cord prolapse

This condition is also one of the more serious umbilical cord-related problems and requires immediate medical attention. Prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord protrudes out of the open cervix and into the vagina. If the fetus puts pressure on the cord during delivery, oxygen deprivation and even stillbirth can occur. When umbilical cord prolapse is diagnosed, it often requires an emergency Cesarean delivery to protect the baby.

Birth injuries

When umbilical cord issues arise during pregnancy, they can lead to serious birth injuries for the child.

Some of these injuries include:

  • Brain damage:  Brain damage or cerebral palsy can occur when the baby is deprived of oxygen during pregnancy, labor or delivery. This deprivation may be due to pressure on the umbilical cord that restricts blood flow and oxygen to the fetus in utero.
  • Organ damage:  In addition to brain damage, oxygen deprivation can also lead to damage of other vital organs in the baby’s body.  If the organ damage is not reversible, it can lead to organ failure and death.
  • Stillbirth:  Stillbirth is the term used to refer to a baby who has died in the uterus after 20 weeks of gestation. Umbilical cord problems may contribute to around four percent of all stillbirths that occur.

Risk factors for umbilical cord problems

It can be difficult to predict how or when an umbilical cord complication might occur.

Some of the circumstances that contribute to the risk include:

  • Unusually long or narrow umbilical cord
  • Babies that are large for gestational age
  • High blood pressure or diabetes in mother
  • Multiple pregnancies or advanced maternal age
  • Excessive amniotic fluid
  • Baby is in breech position

Prevention and treatment of umbilical cord birth complications

While it is impossible to prevent umbilical cord problems, early detection and proper treatment can make a world of difference in the outcome for the baby. The correct response depends on the specific type of problem, but might include regular monitoring of the mother throughout the rest of the pregnancy or even an emergency Cesarean delivery. Quick, competent treatment of umbilical cord problems can prevent serious birth injuries and may save the baby’s life.

Contacting a birth injury lawyer

If your child experienced umbilical cord birth complications, the birth injury lawyers of Eisbrouch Marsh may be able to help. We offer the extensive resources necessary— from a full medical library to an in-house nurse—to establish the liability of all at-fault parties, and to pursue the maximum compensation you deserve. Our clients have obtained damages for medical malpractice claims that relieve the financial stress of mounting medical bills and lost wages. Our office provides free case evaluations, and we do not collect a fee unless you win your case. Call us today.

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  2. What to Expect, Cord Knots during Pregnancy,

  3. VBAC Facts, Umbilical Cord around Baby’s Neck Rarely Causes Complications,

  4. March of Dimes, Umbilical Cord Abnormalities,

  5. Baby Med, Umbilical Cord Information and Anomalies,

  6. Cleveland Clinic, Umbilical Cord Prolapse and Complications,