What is umbilical cord prolapse?

By Jason Brady

newborn baby being held by a nurse in hospital

Umbilical cord prolapse is an emergency situation as it can be compressed during a contraction and result in a reduced oxygen supply to the baby.

What is an umbilical cord prolapse?

The umbilical cord acts as the main source of blood supply to the baby during pregnancy. However, in rare instances, once the waters have broken the umbilical cord can come through the open cervix (entrance of the womb), either during labour or immediately after the waters break but before labour has started.

Umbilical cord prolapse is an emergency situation as it can be compressed during a contraction and result in a reduced oxygen supply to the baby. This would require an immediate delivery as a lack of oxygen to the baby can cause long-term harm or even death.

Medical professionals, therefore, need to carefully monitor the mother at the earliest indication of an umbilical cord prolapse so that decisions can be made as to whether to expedite delivery through an emergency caesarean or other methods. A failure to do so can have devastating consequences and may result in an umbilical cord compensation claim.

Giving birth with a prolapsed umbilical cord

If a prolapsed umbilical cord is suspected, then medical professionals need to ensure the rapid delivery of the baby. Depending on the severity of the prolapse and the stage of labour in which this occurs you may be required to have an emergency caesarean. This may be completed with a general anaesthetic, meaning you would not be awake during the delivery as this can be the quickest way of delivering your baby.

A vaginal birth may still be possible if your cervix is fully dilated. In order to deliver the baby as quickly as possible, an assisted birth (forceps or ventouse) may be required. It is also likely that additional medical professionals such as a neonatal nurse, will be present during the birth as this ensures that treatment if any is needed, can be provided as quickly after the birth as possible.

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