Umbilical Cord-Related Injuries Can Be Life-Threatening

Umbilical Cord-Related Injuries Can Be Life-ThreateningThe umbilical cord is a flexible structure (shaped like a tube) that provides nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the child. Pregnancy and birth doctors and their medical teams need to be prepared for any complications that may arise during pregnancy and labor, including umbilical cord problems. With attentive and competent care, umbilical complications can be promptly controlled.

Parents have the right to expect they will leave the hospital with a healthy child and not one who needs a lifetime of medical care. Doctors and hospitals whose negligence causes harm to the infant or to the mother should be held accountable for any injuries or fatalities they cause. At Telaré Law, our Kennewick medical malpractice lawyers represent families when medical providers fail to provide competent care for any type of birth injury including the following umbilical cord-related injuries:

Nuchal cord injuries

A nuchal cord injury occurs when the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the neck of the fetus. About 10 to 29% of fetuses incur a nuchal cord. The odds of a nuchal cord increase with “advancing gestation age.” While nuchal cord complications don’t often result in death, a nuchal cord can complicate the delivery and cause long-term injuries.

The effect of a tightly wrapped nuchal cord around the neck of a fetus can be similar to strangulation. Blood flow in the “thin-walled umbilical vein” can be obstructed while the infant's “blood continues to be pumped out of the baby through the thicker walled umbilical arteries causing hypovolemia, acidosis, and anemia.”

According to the Cleveland Clinic, hypovolemia occurs when a body loses fluid such as blood or water. Hypovolemia symptoms include weakness, tiredness, and dizziness. Hypovolemia is normally treated with IV fluids. Acidosis refers to high levels of acid in the body. Normally, the lungs and kidneys can get rid of the excess acids. If not, serious complications can result. Anemia occurs when the body lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the tissues of the body.

Umbilical cord prolapse

According to the American Pregnancy Association, umbilical cord prolapse occurs before or during the delivery when the umbilical cord “slips through the cervix” after the mother’s water breaks, “preceding the baby into the birth canal.” A dangerous complication is when the cord sticks out from the vagina which can block or stop the flow of blood through the umbilical cord. If the cord prolapses and protrudes from the vagina, pregnant mothers will need immediate emergency medical care.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than half of umbilical cord prolapses happen within five minutes after the membranes rupture (your water breaks). Seventy percent of umbilical cord prolapses occur within one hour of the membranes rupturing. Some of the causes of an umbilical cord prolapse include having too much amniotic fluid, a breech presentation (the fetus’ head does not appear first), a mother having multiple pregnancies (for example, twins or triplets), and the premature rupture of the membranes.

Pregnancy doctors and delivery doctors should be aware of the following factors that increase the risk of an umbilical cord prolapse:

  • Congenital disorders
  • Placenta previa
  • An irregularly shaped umbilical cord
  • Using a vacuum or forceps to assist a vaginal delivery
  • The infant has a low heart rate
  • Many prior deliveries
  • “High fetal station (fetal station is the baby’s position relative to your pelvis during labor)
  • Many other well-known risk factors

Umbilical cord compression

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) states that this condition occurs when the umbilical cord becomes stretched and compresses during pregnancy or labor – which can cause a reduction in the flow of blood to your baby. Monitors should detect a drop (called a variable deceleration) in the fetal heart rate. About 10 percent of deliveries involve umbilical cord compression.

Most compressions happen during labor and most are mild. In some cases though, the umbilical cord compressions can be extreme and last for a long time, causing the baby to lose oxygen and blood flow because essential nutrients and oxygen don’t pass through the umbilical cord.

During umbilical cord compression, the vein on the umbilical cord becomes compressed causing CO2 (carbon dioxide) to accumulate in the fetus’ blood, which can cause respiratory acidosis. The risk of serious danger is determined by the length of time the umbilical cord is compressed. A loss of oxygen can cause brain damage and even death.

The causes of umbilical cord compression vary. One of the possible causes of umbilical cord compression is a preterm premature rupture of membranes (PROM). PROM involves the rupture of the fetus’ membranes before the onset of labor. “When PROM occurs before 32 weeks of pregnancy, umbilical cord compression occurs 32 to 76 percent of the time.” Another cause of umbilical cord compression is “umbilical cord prolapse,” which we discussed above.

A fetal Doppler or ultrasound are used to diagnose umbilical cord compression before labor.

How is umbilical cord compression treated?

A common treatment for umbilical cord compression that birth doctors should know is called “amnioinfusion.” This process “involves introducing a saline solution, at room temperature, into the uterus during labor in order to relieve the pressure that can potentially lead to the umbilical cord becoming compressed.”

If the umbilical cord compression is minor, the treatment is usually to increase the mother’s level of oxygen so more flood flows through the umbilical cord. If the umbilical cord compression is severe, the baby’s condition needs to be constantly monitored. If there are signs of distress, emergency action is required. If the baby is in distress or the heart rate of the baby suddenly shows “signs of short drops in the heart rhythm,” your doctors may need to perform a C-section.

What birth injuries are caused by problems with the umbilical cord?

The Cleveland Clinic discusses the following possible birth injuries for umbilical cord prolapse. Some of these conditions may also apply to umbilical cord compression and nuchal cords.

  • Hypoxia
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) or birth asphyxia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Stillbirth

The Cleveland Clinic states that the risk of death due to umbilical cord prolapse in a hospital setting ranges from three to seven percent. The mortality rate is much higher outside of a hospital.

There is no news more tragic than being told your newborn will not live a healthy life. A diagnosis of cerebral palsy or a traumatic brain injury is crushing. Being told your newborn died during the delivery is completely devastating.

Contact our attorneys in WA today

At Telaré Law, our Kennewick medical malpractice lawyers work with medical professionals who are experienced at testifying as to why your healthcare providers were negligent and why your pregnancy and delivery doctors should be held accountable. Please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Kennewick or Richland. We’ll guide you step-by-step through this traumatic time. Our trial lawyers have helped numerous personal injury clients obtain very strong settlements and jury verdicts. We hope to hear from you soon!