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Umbilical Cord Prolapse - A Complication In Childbirth

Updated on July 13, 2010

Umbilical cord prolapse is a complication in childbirth that occurs during late pregnancy or during labor and delivery. The umbilical cord descends alongside prematurely compromising the life of the fetus. In simple words, umbilical cord prolapse is a rare complication, which occurs when the umbilical cord has already broken and the baby prepares for birth. It has been estimated that this pregnancy complication occurs in one in every 300 women at the time of labor and delivery.

Umbilical cord prolapse is a situation of great danger for the baby because the umbilical cord is the channel through which oxygen and blood is supplied via the mother’s body to the body of the unborn child and its prolapse can stop or reduce this supply. In this case, delivery must occur quickly since the lack of oxygen and blood can cause brain damage to the baby threatening baby’s life.

Understanding umbilical cord prolapse
Understanding umbilical cord prolapse

Usually, the gynecologist performs a caesarean section to help the baby to be born as quickly as possible without undergoing any damage. The most frequent cause of umbilical cord prolapse is early rupture of amniotic sac, but this condition can also occur in premature birth, in which the baby is in breech position or multiple births where the second baby becomes a larger risk.

Other problems that may be involved with this type of situation may include but not be limited to premature rupture of membranes caused by excessive amount of amniotic fluid. Sometimes when the umbilical cord becomes abnormally long, the cord is broken intentionally when it becomes necessary to induce or speed up labor. In these cases, a pelvic exam is performed to check the location of the cord into the vaginal canal. Also, continuous fetal heart rate monitoring is performed.

Also the gynecologist can ask the mother to put herself in a body position to remove excess pressure on the cord and protect the baby while preparing for cesarean delivery or immediate delivery. This depends from person to person and according to the severity of situation.

Umbilical Cord Prolapse Complication During Pregnancy - Some Important Points To Remember

  1. A prolapsed cord is considered to be an imminent danger for the baby.
  2. The baby may have to be delivered via C-section in order to prevent further damage and save his/her life.
  3. Prolapsed umbilical cord can be detected while doing pelvic examination of a pregnant women or fetal heart rate monitoring.
  4. The growing fetus is attached to placenta, which provides food and oxygen for the fetus. The umbilical cord connects the growing fetus to the placenta.
  5. Umbilical cord prolapse during pregnancy can be a complication of breech birth. The growing baby is in danger of suffocation from lack of oxygen, which can cause brain damage.
  6. While doing pelvic examination, the prolapsed cord can be felt in the vagina.
  7. Before the surgeon performs C-section, the patient is placed in knee chest position to prevent further prolapse.
  8. It may also become necessary to have the pregnant women bend over on her knees to prevent pressure on the umbilical cord.


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      thank you 5 years ago

      I was interested to know about it from a long time. Thank you for the information. I didn't even knw what it was called though I had the same thing when I was born. Doc say it was a fatal emergancy they even signed papers with my father that they won't be able to save both mother and baby. Though luckily both were saved...