For something that is of such importance to the health and wellbeing of a developing baby, the umbilical cord can also be a source of trouble. It is a delivery system for oxygen and nutrients, but it can easily become tangled, kinked, and flattened in different ways. When this happens, it poses a long list of possible threats to the baby.
Fortunately, some of the most challenging problems that the umbilical cord faces are also easily overcome through timely medical intervention. Obviously, this means that ongoing medical care is an important part of any pregnancy because a physician is going to quickly recognize when an umbilical cord issue has arisen.
Umbilical Cord Compression Explained
What is the condition known as umbilical cord compression? It is when the cord is somehow flattened, and this occurs in a variety of ways:
- Prolapse – When the cord passes out of the cervix ahead of the baby during delivery and is subsequently pinched off
- Nuchal – When the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck
- Knotted – When the cord is actually knotted
- Contractions can squeeze and flatten the cord
- During breech delivery
- When there are multiple babies
- When the cord is too long
- When there is too much amniotic fluid
We might understand why a cord wound around a baby’s neck is such a threat, but just why is compression such a problem? Does it actually block the cord from supplying the baby with all that it needs?
It is important to note that the cord carries oxygen and blood from the placenta to the baby. This is the only way the baby receives all that it needs. When even a moderate reduction in these supplies occurs, it can cause irreparable harm. When it is severe, such as when the cord is involved in prolapse, it can cut off a baby’s supplies entirely. This can lead to brain damage, organ failure, and death. One of the most common results is cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen.
This is why any problems with the umbilical cord must be dealt with as rapidly as possible. While regular checkups with a doctor will use imaging that can reveal some of the most common issues leading to umbilical cord compression, it is imperative to act fast whenever any symptoms emerge.
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible for a woman to simply “feel” that there is a problem with the umbilical cord. Instead, it is usually standard medical checkups that uncover the problems. For example, any changes in a baby’s heart rate are a clear indication of something going wrong. However, if a pregnant woman senses a lot less movement than she has been experiencing with a baby, it is definitely a time to seek medical care. It could be nothing, but it might also be a problem with the umbilical cord.
The Remedies and Results
What can a medical expert do when any umbilical cord compression is suspected? One of the first things that will occur is that the mother will be taken to an emergency treatment facility. This will enable her doctors to make any choices for overcoming the issue.
For example, a mother may be given oxygen and fluids to supply the baby with what it needs. If the cord has prolapsed and the amniotic sac has ruptured, however, it is likely that an emergency cesarean section will be done to ensure that the baby is removed from the stressful and harmful environment.
If things are not at an emergency level, there are many things physicians can do to relieve the compression and bring a situation back to normal. Medications, physical manipulation of the baby or the cord, and other procedures can all provide mother and baby with a good outcome.
- WebMD. Understanding Labor and Delivery Complications. 2015. http://www.webmd.com/baby/understanding-labor-delivery-complications-basics?page=3