The umbilical cord is a literal lifeline that connects the fetus to the placenta, providing the growing baby with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay alive. The cord plays this essential role through pregnancy, labor, and delivery—and once the baby is delivered and able to breathe on its own, the umbilical cord is no longer necessary.
However, in rare cases, there may be issues with the umbilical cord during the stages of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. If these issues aren't dealt with properly, your baby can suffer a severe birth injury. One of the most serious issues is a prolapsed umbilical cord.
What is a prolapsed umbilical cord?
In a normal delivery, the baby exits the birth canal before the umbilical cord. However, in some situations, the umbilical cord drops through the cervix into the vagina before the baby. This usually occurs at the same time as amniotic sac ruptures (water breaking), as the baby moves into the birth canal for delivery.
A prolapsed cord is an emergency because the cord can be compressed or pinched between the baby's body and the mother, blocking or cutting off completely the baby's supply of oxygen and nutrients. Without oxygen, the baby can suffer birth injuries like brain damage, or even death.
How do doctors monitor for umbilical cord prolapse?
During labor and delivery, the mother's ob-gyn or midwife should carefully monitor the mother for any signs of abnormalities. This includes a pelvic examination to ensure the umbilical cord hasn't prolapsed, and this examination should happen regularly as labor keeps progressing. In some cases, the medical professional can visually spot a prolapsed cord.
If at any point the doctor feels there's cause for concern, they should monitor the fetus carefully to track its heart rate. If the baby shows signs of distress, the doctor should act immediately—commonly an emergency cesarean section. Failure to act when the fetus is in distress may be medical negligence.
What are the risks of a prolapsed umbilical cord?
There are several risks that can increase your chances of having an umbilical cord prolapse:
- If you are carrying more than one baby
- If you have excessive amounts of amniotic fluid
- If your umbilical cord is excessively long
- If your baby is breech or other unusual delivery presentation
Your doctor or midwife should have assessed these risks at the start of prenatal care. If you have any of these risks, you should be monitored and advised properly according to your situation. Your doctor might ensure you have ultrasounds to check on your amniotic fluid levels and the length of your umbilical cord before you go into labor, for example.
What are your rights?
If your baby was deprived of oxygen during birth because of a prolapsed umbilical cord, you probably want to know why. What if your healthcare provider failed you and your child? Did they monitor you correctly, or warn you of the risks, or respond to evidence of a prolapsed cord? If they didn't, they may have acted negligently.
At Crandall & Pera Law, our birth injury attorneys in Ohio and Kentucky have the experience you want on your side. If a doctor or other medical professional has injured your child, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, other expenses, and pain and suffering. Please call 877-686-8879, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at one of our office locations.