Nuchal cord birth injuries caused by the umbilical cord wrapping around the baby’s neck often lead to severe physical impairments and permanent disabilities.
Nuchal Cord Birth Injuries
A nuchal cord birth injury occurs when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck during pregnancy or delivery. Although most cases do not result in injury to the baby, complications can lead to physical and mental impairments, permanent disabilities, and even death.
According to the National Institute of Health, nuchal cord birth injuries occur in 20 to 30 percent of all births. In most cases, the umbilical cord is loosely wrapped around the baby’s neck, so physicians can easily untangle it during delivery. In cases where the umbilical cord is tightly wrapped or wrapped around two or three times, it can restrict the baby’s blood flow and oxygen. Complications can lead to a number of serious medical conditions for the baby including:
- Intellectual Disorders
- Developmental Delays
- Brain Damage
- Cerebral Palsy
The most common birth risk is a decreased heart rate for the baby. This is usually caused by reduced blood flow and oxygen levels when cords tighten during contractions. If the doctor sees signs of fetal distress or adverse effects on the mother, cesarean delivery may be recommended.
Diagnosis and Treatment
There are no known ways to prevent or treat nuchal cord conditions. If a problem is discovered during pregnancy, fetal monitoring with ultrasounds are often used to prevent complications, however, they may not impact the delivery outcome. Most severe nuchal cord birth injuries occur due to a lack of proper fetal monitoring or negligent care during pregnancy. In such cases, medical malpractice lawsuits are commonly filed.
Once labor begins, doctors usually don’t attempt to loosen or untangle nuchal cords until the baby is born. Since cords are essential for adequate blood flow and oxygen to the baby, birth outcomes are shown to be better for the mother and the baby if the cord is left intact. The cord is typically unwrapped after the baby is born, unless it presents an emergency situation. The majority of nuchal cord problems are resolved after the doctor unwraps the cord from the baby’s neck. If the baby suffers oxygen deprivation before the cord is removed, the baby may require certain treatments to reduce the chance of brain damage. If nuchal cords are loosely wrapped, a cesarean is usually not necessary.