The umbilical cord connects the fetus to the placenta, and during pregnancy, this literal lifeline supplies the growing baby with nutrients and oxygen. The umbilical cord continues this role through labor and delivery, and finally, after birth when the baby is ready to breathe on his own, the umbilical cord is no longer necessary.
However, if something happens to this essential cord during pregnancy, labor or delivery, it can have severe, long lasting and potentially deadly consequences for the child. There are a number of issues that can affect the umbilical cord, but one of the most serious is a prolapsed umbilical cord.
What is a prolapsed umbilical cord?
A prolapsed umbilical cord occurs when the umbilical cord drops through the cervix (the opening of the uterus) before the baby. If this happens, the cord can become trapped between the baby’s body and the mother. This position pinches the cord, cutting off the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the baby.
Without oxygen, the baby may suffer brain damage or even death.
What can a healthcare provider do about a prolapsed umbilical cord?
To diagnose a prolapsed umbilical cord, the ob-gyn or midwife should carefully monitor the mother during her labor and delivery. Upon admitting the mother to the hospital or birthing center, he should do a pelvic examination to ensure that the cord has not prolapsed, and he should repeat this examination regularly as labor progresses.
If the doctor senses a cause for concern, he should monitor the fetus carefully. By using an internal fetal monitor, the healthcare provider can track the baby’s heart rate, and if it drops or if the baby shows other signs of distress, the doctor should order an emergency cesarean section. Failure to do so may constitute negligence.
In other cases, if a doctor detects that a patient has a prolapsed cord, he can order an amnioinfusion. This is an injection of saline fluid, similar to amniotic fluid, into the uterus. It alleviates the potential pressure on the cord and can be lifesaving.
In still other cases, doctors or midwives may be able to manually shift the baby away from the umbilical cord. This lifts the weight off the cord, allowing it to supply nutrients and oxygen. In addition to knowing how to treat prolapsed cords, ob-gyns and midwives need to understand the risks of prolapsed cords, and they need to move forward cautiously if the mother exhibits risk factors.
What are the risks of a prolapsed umbilical cord?
A number of risks can increase your chances of experiencing a prolapsed umbilical cord. If you are carrying more than one baby, if you have excessive amniotic fluid or if your umbilical cord is longer than usual, you are at an increased risk for umbilical cord prolapse.
Ideally, your doctor should assess these risks as soon as he starts providing you with prenatal care, and if you have risks, he should monitor and advise you accordingly. For example, your ob-gyn or midwife ensure you have a ultrasound to check on your fluid levels and the length of your cord before you go into labor.
In addition, if you go into labor early, your chances of experiencing an umbilical cord abruption also increase. Similarly, a breech (feet first or sideways) presentation can also increase the risk of a prolapsed umbilical cord.
What are your rights?
If your healthcare provider failed to monitor you correctly, failed to warn you of risks or failed to respond to evidence of a prolapsed umbilical cord, he may have acted negligently. As a result, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, other expenses, and pain and suffering. If you or your baby suffered as a result of a prolapsed cord, you should talk with a birth injury lawyer.
What can a birth injury lawyer do?
Birth injury lawyers are specialists in this arena. They can help you look over the damage you or your child has suffered. They can help you assess what the doctor should have done and how he, the healthcare facility or other parties caused or exacerbated the effects of your prolapsed umbilical cord. A birth injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a case, and he can help you pursue compensation and justice.