What Is Umbilical Cord Prolapse?

The umbilical cord is the lifeline between mother and baby. When it becomes damaged or compressed, swift treatment is essential for saving the baby's life.

Umbilical cord prolapse happens when the cord slips out of the uterus into the birth canal before the baby is born. The weight of the baby presses on the cord, cutting off blood flow and oxygen supply — and creating a serious medical emergency. If not properly treated, the fetus can suffer severe brain damage or even death.

How Does It Happen?

Umbilical cord prolapse typically happens during a difficult labor. Risk factors for this dangerous condition include:

  • Premature labor
  • Low birth weight
  • Abnormal presentation (especially breech positioning)
  • Twins or multiples
  • Excessive amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios)
  • Premature rupture of the membranes (when the mother's water breaks too soon)
  • Artificial rupture of the membranes (when the doctor uses a tool to break the mother's water)
  • Use of internal fetal monitors
  • An unusually long umbilical cord
  • A hyperactive fetus

How Is It Detected And Dealt With?

Fetal monitoring is the most important way of diagnosing umbilical cord prolapse. The fetus's heart rate may drop significantly during contractions and return to normal after each contraction subsides (called variable deceleration). The mother may also be able to feel the cord in the birth canal.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical for saving the baby. Treatment usually involves immediate abdominal delivery by C-section. A pediatric team should be standing by to resuscitate the baby if necessary.

Help For Victims Of Negligence

Has your baby suffered serious complications because of umbilical cord prolapse that went unnoticed or untreated? Have you lost a baby to this tragic condition? At Barry D. Lang, M.D. & Associates, we're here for you during this difficult time. Our attorneys can help you understand what happened. We have nurses and doctors on staff who know what to look for in determining whether negligence occurred.

To speak with a member of our team, call 800-LAWYERS for a free consultation. We serve clients across Massachusetts from our office in the Boston area. We can also come to you if needed.