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Umbilical Cord Accidents

A healthy baby is the most important goal of any pregnancy. A mother-to-be will do everything in her power to have a healthy baby: pre-natal vitamins, a healthy diet, regular visits to the doctor for prenatal care and screenings, etc. A new study published in the National Institutes of Medicine (NIM) indicates that doctors can reduce the risk of some pregnancy and delivery complications by screening for umbilical cord accidents.

The umbilical cord is a lifeline between the fetus and the placenta of the mother, enabling nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to flow. It is fairly normal for the umbilical cord to wrap around the fetus; it is usually not a problem because the umbilical cord is coated with a thick jelly (called Wharton’s jelly) that naturally prevents compression.

In random cases, however, the umbilical cord can pose dangerous risks to the baby if it is knotted or compressed around the baby’s body or neck. This may occur while the baby is in utero or during childbirth. When the umbilical cord compromises a baby’s health, it is critical that a doctor or hospital act quickly to prevent a stillbirth or a birth injury.

The health risks associated with umbilical cord accidents include:

  • Fetal heart abnormalities
  • Poor physical development
  • Brain damage
  • Stillbirth

The study published in NIM claims that 10% of stillbirths are caused by umbilical cord accidents. Thousands of these stillbirths and other birth injuries could be avoided by implementing an umbilical cord screening test during prenatal care. This test would involve an ultrasound observation of fetal body movements and a sonography that would focus on the location and quality of the umbilical cord.

Based on the results of these screenings, doctors could take immediate action to correct the umbilical cord problems or continue close monitoring of the pregnancy. Physicians may also check the amniotic fluid level of the uterus, and if the levels are low, this is an indication that the umbilical cord may be compressed and restricting the baby’s movements.

In some cases, the umbilical cord compression can occur unexpectedly during delivery. For example, this can be due to a prolapsed cord where the cord comes through the cervix prior to the baby during labor. One of the primary indicators of a prolapsed cord or umbilical cord compression is a change (deceleration) in the baby’s heart rate. Doctors and nurses can identify an umbilical cord emergency with fetal heart rate monitoring (FHM monitoring). Fetal heart rate monitoring may indicate the need for an emergency Cesarean-Section, whereby a doctor can physically remove the umbilical cord from baby’s neck through the C-section incision.

When umbilical cord problems occur and doctors respond promptly, often a serious health problem can be prevented. Screening for the umbilical cord during pregnancy is one possible tool to use toward this prevention. If a doctor or medical service provider in Kentucky fails to heed medically indicated warning signs of an umbilical cord complication and your baby’s health is compromised, it may give rise to an allegation of medical negligence or medical malpractice.

If you want to talk to a lawyer about medical malpractice, please contact Brett Oppenheimer, a Kentucky attorney with his office in Louisville. Brett will speak with you about your Kentucky malpractice case and explain the process associated with filing a Kentucky malpractice lawsuit. Contact Brett at (502) 242-8877.