Umbilical cord prolapse is a statistically rare event, happening in less than 1% (0.14% to 0.62%) of all births. However, even at the low end, there are almost 6,000 births every year complicated by this dangerous condition.
This is an emergency situation where the umbilical cord moves through the birth canal before the baby. When the baby moves down, the umbilical cord is squeezed tight, which cuts of oxygen and blood to the baby.
Causes And Risk Factors For Umbilical Cord Prolapse
- Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)
- Premature labor
- Twins, Triplets, and Delivery of Multiples
- Excessive amniotic fluid
- Extremely long umbilical cord (over 24 inches)
- Breech delivery (baby is feet down)
- Walking after rupture of membranes
The Standard Of Care For Obstetricians Faced With Umbilical Cord Prolapse
The first step is for the obstetrician to identify an umbilical cord prolapse. Sometimes it is obvious because the umbilical cord will come out of the vagina. In other cases, the doctor should check for a cord prolapse with a pelvic examination if the baby’s heart rate goes below 120 beats per minute, a dangerous condition known as bradycardia. The baby’s heart rate should be monitored using electronic fetal monitoring.
Once an umbilical cord prolapse is apparent, obstetricians must follow prescribed guidelines in order to ensure that the baby remains properly oxygenated. Failure to do so can lead to fetal distress. The doctor should try to remove pressure on the cord
If the doctor cannot stop the bradycardia, by repositioning the mother to relieve the pressure of the baby on the umbilical cord, the only option is to deliver the baby immediately. If the labor is far enough along, some doctors might try using forceps or a vacuum extractor, which must be used carefully or the baby is at risk of additional injuries. Typically, the correct response to an umbilical cord prolapse is an emergency cesarean section.
Injuries Caused By Failure To Properly Treat Umbilical Cord Prolapse
If not identified and treated in a timely manner, babies who experience umbilical cord prolapse will be without oxygen, blood and other nutrients for precious minutes of their early lives. Every moment is critical, and can cause irreversible injury, including:
If your doctor did not timely identify an umbilical cord prolapse, or did not correctly or quickly deliver your baby when the emergency was known, you and your child may be entitled to a birth injury lawsuit that will help you to pay for past and future medical treatment. Contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (855) 712-7818 or online for a discussion about how we can help you get answers.