Orange County Umbilical Cord Injury Attorney
Umbilical cord compression is a fairly common condition which occurs in roughly 10% of all deliveries. Cord compression or cord prolapse should be relatively easy to diagnose with proper medical care and monitoring, and if doctors act quickly and responsibly there is little to no reason a child should suffer any permanent consequences. However, if an umbilical cord compression or prolapse is not treated properly, the result can be a lifetime of disability or even wrongful death.
What Causes Umbilical Cord Compression?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, umbilical cord compression occurs in roughly 1 in 10 deliveries. There are a number of possible causes of umbilical cord compression, and usually this condition is easy for medical personnel to recognize before it poses a risk to an unborn child.
Umbilical Cord Prolapse
The most common cause of umbilical cord compression is cord prolapse. Normally, when a woman’s amniotic sac ruptures (water breaks), her baby moves into and through the birth canal before the umbilical cord. This allows the baby to continue to derive nutrients and oxygen from the mother until he or she is born. In some cases, however, the umbilical cord moves ahead of the baby (prolapses) and can become compressed in the birth canal.
In some cases, an umbilical cord prolapse may result when a doctor ruptures the uterine membranes too early. When the amniotic fluid is drained too early, the baby may be too high up in the uterus and the umbilical cord can slip down and become prolapsed.
Additional Cord Compression Causes
In addition to umbilical cord prolapse, there are a number of less-common causes of umbilical cord compression. These may include:
- Umbilical cord wrapped around baby’s neck (nuchal cord)
- Knots in the umbilical cord
- Uterine contractions cause cord compression
Cord Compression Risk Factors
The Cleveland Clinic states that there are certain risk factors which may increase the likelihood of an umbilical cord compression, such as:
- Multiples (twins, triplets)
- Very long umbilical cord
- Excessive amniotic fluid (hydraminos)
- Premature delivery
- Breech delivery
Symptoms of Umbilical Cord Compression
In addition to known risk factors for umbilical cord compression, this condition may display a number of symptoms which should alert doctors and nurses to a potential emergency delivery situation. If these symptoms are ignored or not properly attended to, babies can suffer serious or even fatal birth injuries. Signs of a potential umbilical cord compression or prolapse may include:
- Fetal bradycardia (baby’s heart rate drops below 120 beats per minute)
- Mother feels baby move much less frequently than normal
- Mother may actually feel the cord prolapse
- Prolapse may be identified during pelvic exam
- Prolapse may be diagnosed via ultrasound or Doppler
With recent advances in technology, many causes of umbilical cord compression may be diagnosed in utero.
Treatment of Umbilical Cord Compression
It is normal for the umbilical cord to become compressed for short periods of time during the delivery process, and in most the condition mends itself before the baby suffers any harm. In cases of extreme or extended compression, however, it is essential for doctors and nurses to act very quickly to prevent harm to the baby.
One common treatment for umbilical cord compression is a process called amnioinfusion, where room-temperature saline solution is introduced into the uterus. This may alleviate pressure on the umbilical cord. Other possible treatments for less severe compressions include administering oxygen to the mother, which should increase blood flow through the umbilical cord, or changing the mother’s position to alleviate pressure on the cord. It may also be possible for a doctor to use his or her finger to unwrap an umbilical cord from around a baby’s neck.
In more extreme cases of umbilical cord compression, it is necessary to deliver the baby as quickly as possible via emergency C-section. This should occur nearly immediately, as even five to seven minutes of restricted oxygen to an infant can cause life-long disabilities and birth injuries.
Umbilical Cord Compression Injuries
The umbilical cord is how babies get all of their nutrients and oxygen until the cord is cut after delivery. Thus, compression of the umbilical cord can deprive infants of oxygen (hypoxia) and nutrients and impair blood flow—all of which may have severe or fatal consequences.
Possible birth injuries resulting from umbilical cord compression or improper treatment of an umbilical cord prolapse may include:
- Brain damage
- Heart problems
- Impaired physical development
- Behavioral disorders
- Cerebral palsy
- Fetal death
Speak with a Birth Injury Lawyer
Umbilical cord compression is not usually a medical emergency, but it is necessary that doctors quickly diagnose the issue and take appropriate action to treat it. If, for example, a doctor fails to diagnose a prolapsed umbilical cord, fails to properly monitor fetal heart rates or other signs of distress, or waits too long to perform a C-section when compression is present, the consequences can include permanent disability or even fetal death.
If you believe that medical negligence in failing to diagnose or properly tend to umbilical cord compression caused your baby’s suffering or wrongful death, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Money recovered from a birth injury lawsuit can help you provide the very best care for your child and a more secure future for your family. To learn more about your rights, please contact a birth injury lawyer for a free consultation.