Umbilical Cord Problems and Birth Injuries: What You Need to Know

The umbilical cord is the baby’s lifeline; it plays an essential role in their development. Through the umbilical cord, oxygen and nutrients reach the baby. The baby’s wastes are also transported away through this cord. The umbilical cord is critical to their survival during the gestational period.

After they are born, babies can breathe and take nourishment on their own. There will be no more use for the umbilical cord then, and it gets severed. However, many things can go wrong involving the umbilical cord that can lead to birth injuries.

Umbilical Cord Problems Leading to Birth Injury

There are many situations and medical issues that can contribute to umbilical cord problems.  Complications can arise anywhere, from the labor stage to the delivery process. Some of these can cause complications and severe birth injuries if not attended to right away. Here are some of the umbilical cord issues:

  1. Umbilical Cord Compression

This problem happens when the oxygenated blood could not flow through the cord due to excessive pressure. The baby can suffer from oxygen deprivation, inadequate nutrition, and fetal acidosis, a condition where there is a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the baby’s blood.

  1. Nuchal Cords

This complication occurs when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck. Among all the umbilical cord complications, the nuchal cord is the most common. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nuchal cords happen to around 20% to 30% of pregnancies. In most cases, it can resolve on its own. Nuchal cords can disrupt normal blood and oxygen exchange and impedes nutrient flow to the baby.

  1. True Knots

It is said that around 1 in 2,000 births will develop a true knot in the umbilical cord. True knots, as the name implies, are knots that form anywhere along the baby’s umbilical cord. There is also a false knot, and it is nothing to worry about.

True knots are life-threatening as these can cut out oxygen supply of the baby, resulting in brain injury and fetal death.

  1. Umbilical Cord Prolapse

This one happens when the umbilical cord descends through the birth canal ahead or alongside the baby. Umbilical cord prolapse is a dangerous situation because the baby’s head can press on the cord as it goes, cutting off the baby’s oxygen supply in the process. It can lead to birth asphyxia and other complications like cerebral palsy.

  1. Too Short / Too Long Umbilical Cords

The umbilical cord is usually around 32cm long by the 20th week of pregnancy; around the 40th week, it should be about 60cm long. But sometimes, the umbilical cord remains shorter or grows longer than normal. It can create problems, such as placental abruption, fetal distress, and psychomotor abnormalities in the case of short cords. In long cords, fetal entanglement, umbilical cord prolapse and true knots may occur. Both of these can lead to oxygen deprivation and serious brain injuries.

  1. Vasa Previa

Although rare, vasa previa is a grave emergency that will require a blood transfusion to the newborn baby. This complication happens when blood vessels within the umbilical cord or placenta are trapped between the opening to the birth canal and the baby. It can cause rupture to the blood vessels, resulting in massive blood loss to the baby as well as birth injury.

  1. Umbilical Cord Cyst

This problem occurs with the appearance of growth on the cord. It may be a false cyst (or pseudocyst), which is full of fluid, or a true cyst, which is filled with the residual cells from the fetal development. If left undetected and untreated, it can lead to birth defects.

Umbilical Cord Complications: Who are at Risk?

Doctors and obstetrical staff should monitor for signs of fetal distress and changes in the baby’s heart rate as these can give a clue to the occurrence of umbilical cord complications. When it is present, proper and immediate action should be done.

Here are some common variables that require additional monitoring for umbilical cord complications:

  • The baby is in breech presentation;
  • A low level of amniotic fluid;
  • A preterm labor episode;
  • A case of multiple births;
  • The patient’s membrane has been intentionally ruptured to hasten labor;
  • The umbilical cord is too long or too short.

Treatment and Prevention

Diagnosing the umbilical cord complications should be a part of prenatal testing. The signs of umbilical cord complication can be recognized through many prenatal tests such as fetal heart monitoring and ultrasound. The presence of fetal distress means there is a serious complication going on, and it needs immediate action.

Umbilical cord complication almost always results in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE. This neonatal brain damage is due to oxygen deprivation. The usual treatment for HIE is neonatal therapeutic hypothermia. This treatment involves cooling the infant’s core body temperature to 33.5C for 72 hours and should be administered within 6 hours of birth.

Decreased body temperature slows the metabolic rate of the infant. It encourages cell recovery and helps minimize brain damage. After 72 hours, the baby is rewarmed within 4-12 hours. Other required treatments will follow depending on the kind of complication.

Get Legal Help for Birth Injuries Caused by Medical Mistakes

Birth injury due to lack of or improper management of umbilical cord complications can torment the parents of the newborn. The birth injury lawyers at The Clark Law Office understand how this unfortunate case can affect the life of the child.

It our attorneys’ mission to provide compassionate legal help. Through expert investigation of the case, they can help obtain the rightful compensation for your child. Contact us today to schedule a free legal consultation.

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