Risk Factors for Compression of the Umbilical Cord

If your child has suffered a birth injury due to compression of the umbilical cord during delivery, then it is important that you speak to an experienced birth injury lawyer as soon as possible.  Compression of the umbilical cord during delivery reduces the amount of oxygen that the fetus receives and if not treated immediately this can cause brain damage and sometimes death.  Brain damage caused by a compressed umbilical cord may result in a child being diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

A compressed umbilical cord is relatively easy for doctors, nurses and midwives to diagnose, provided they are monitoring the fetal heart rate during labour and delivery.  A sudden drop in the fetal heart rate may mean that the umbilical cord has become compressed.  There are various risk factors that may increase the chance of the fetus’ umbilical cord becoming compressed during delivery.  If these risk factors are present, doctors, nurses and midwives should be extra vigilant about monitoring the fetal heart rate throughout the labour and delivery:

  • The fetus presenting in the breech position (bum first rather than head first)
  • A premature delivery
  • A longer than usual umbilical cord, which may increase the risk of tangling or cord prolapse
  • The delivery of twins
  • A condition called hydramnios, which means there is a greater amount of amniotic fluid in the womb than normal.

An umbilical cord may become compressed if it becomes wrapped around the fetus’ neck, if it becomes tied in a knot, or in the case of a cord prolapse, which means that part of the umbilical cord drops into the birth canal ahead of the fetus.

As soon as the nurse, doctor or midwife notes a decrease in the fetal heart rate, they should start the mother on IV fluids and oxygen, to attempt to increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients that the fetus receives through the umbilical cord.  If the fetal heart rate and oxygen levels do not improve, the doctor may recommend that the baby be delivered by emergency cesarean section.

In the case of a compressed umbilical cord, a speedy and efficient reaction by medical staff is essential.  An experienced doctor, nurse or midwife should be able to recognize and treat a compressed umbilical cord right away, minimizing the reduction in oxygen suffered by the fetus.

Contact your birth injury lawyer if you have any questions about how your health care practitioner handled your child’s compressed umbilical cord during delivery.

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