How Can Umbilical Cord Issues Cause Birth Injuries?

During regular monitoring of pregnancy, the doctor can help identify any signs of fetal distress and what can be causing it. Far too often, this is a situation that involves the umbilical cord and certain issues that could be causing harm to the baby.Unfortunately, umbilical cord issues often go missed when the doctor does not properly monitor a pregnancy or fails to promptly deliver. Understanding how umbilical cord issues can cause birth injuries and how to move forward is important.

What a Prolapsed Umbilical Cord Involves and Could Mean for Your Child

Cleveland Clinic states that a prolapsed umbilical cord can occur during the pregnancy or delivery and results in the umbilical cord dropping through the cervix before the baby. This can cause the umbilical cord to become trapped near the body of the baby and cut off the oxygen supply to the baby’s brain. Umbilical cord prolapse is a problem often resulting from: 

  • Excessive amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) 
  • Multiple babies being delivered (for example, twins, triplets, or more)
  • A baby presenting in breech positioning (feet first instead of head first) 
  • Preterm labor (premature birth)
  • Premature rupture of the membranes (water breaking too early) 

While loss of oxygen is a possible problem that may occur, a prolapsed umbilical cord can result in a stillbirth. It’s imperative the doctor properly monitor for fetal distress. An umbilical cord prolapse is a medical emergency for which the doctor usually performs an immediate cesarean section (C-section) surgical delivery of the baby.

Minutes can make the difference between a baby delivered without any permanent injuries and a baby who has irreversible brain damage or dies. An umbilical cord prolapse happens in about one out of 300 births. 

Umbilical Cord Strangulation Can Be Dangerous and Fatal for Babies

Healthline states that an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck (nuchal cord) causes strangulation. The umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck isn’t what causes problems, but problems occur.

Where the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck and other body parts can cause the cord to lose oxygen flow. Think of the umbilical cord as a garden hose. If the hose gets twisted or kinked, that condition could prevent water from flowing out the other end of the hose at a strong rate or at all. The cord carries the oxygen and nutrients the baby needs on a constant basis to stay alive and healthy. 

If there is a problem with the cord, the baby’s brain may lose oxygen supply, and it can result in significant problems, including brain damage or stillbirth. Also, a disruption in the flow of these vital items through the cord could cause reduced fetal heart rate.

Your Doctor Should Have Monitored You for Nuchal Cord Warning Signs

A pregnant woman is at higher risk of a nuchal cord in these situations:

  • A pregnancy of multiple babies, like twins, triplets, or more babies
  • An excessive amount of amniotic fluid
  • An umbilical cord with poor structure – For example, Jornal Brasileiro de Patologia e Medicina Laboratorial states that “absence of Wharton’s jelly is associated with fetal distress. This is the gooey substance inside the cord that is supposed to keep the cord from getting tangled into knots or wrapped around the baby’s neck as the baby flips around inside the mother throughout the pregnancy.
  • An umbilical cord that is significantly longer than most

Doctors stress that the mother’s actions have nothing to do with causing a nuchal cord. There is no way to prevent a nuchal cord from developing. When a nuchal cord happens, it is not anyone’s fault. The focus needs to be on rapid diagnosis and treatment to minimize the risk of harm to the baby. Failure to promptly deliver a child after a nuchal cord is discovered could qualify as medical negligence.

How a Nuchal Cord Could Harm an Infant

Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology reports that nuchal cords occur in roughly 10–29% of fetuses. However, it doesn’t always cause problems. Some babies have the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck several times but still manage to get all the nutrients they need. Rarely, a cord will have an actual knot, but if the cord does not get compressed or kinked, the cord can still deliver its life-sustaining oxygen and other nutrients to the baby.

Sometimes, an ultrasound will reveal a nuchal cord early in the pregnancy. These anomalies can unravel on their own during pregnancy as the baby moves around. 

It’s up to the doctor to determine if the baby is in distress and take action to provide a solution when the umbilical cord experiences any of the potential issues.

Other Umbilical Cord Problems Your Child Might Have Suffered

Several different issues with umbilical cords can lead to problems during the pregnancy, labor, and delivery. These abnormalities can include:

  • The umbilical cord is longer than usual (PLoS One).
  • The umbilical cord is missing one of the arteries it should have. These babies can have kidney, heart, or spine problems.
  • One or more of the blood vessels of the cord or placenta lie across the cervix, a condition called vasa previa. This condition can be life-threatening because the blood vessels can rupture during labor (Merck Manual).

Call Our Umbilical Cord Issues Medical Negligence Lawyers

At Brown & Barron, our Baltimore birth injury lawyers work to help families recognize their rights when a medical professional is negligent. Trust us to guide you and your family through the process to pursue compensation on your behalf. Call us today to learn more.

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