Umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. The baby puts pressure on the cord, cutting off their oxygen supply. Umbilical cord prolapse is potentially fatal if the baby goes too long without oxygen.
Occurring in about one out of every 300 births, umbilical cord prolapse is a rare occurrence, but potentially fatal if not dealt with promptly.
Signs of umbilical cord prolapse
The main symptom of umbilical prolapse is the mother feeling the cord in her vagina after her water breaks. A potential sign of a prolapsed cord is an abnormal fetal heart rate of under 120 beats per minute, but that does not happen in every case. Umbilical cord prolapse occurs during labor or delivery. Diagnosis involves seeing or feeling the prolapsed cord during a pelvic exam.
Causes of umbilical cord prolapse
The most common cause for umbilical cord prolapse is premature rupture of the membranes. This is when water breaks before contractions start or labor has begun. Other pregnancy complications that can lead to a prolapsed cord include preterm labor, breech presentation, prolonged labor or excessive amniotic fluid. In cases of twins or other multiple births, the second baby is more likely to experience umbilical cord prolapse.
Treatment for umbilical cord prolapse
Umbilical cord prolapse is an obstetric emergency. It requires immediate delivery when discovered. This is usually accomplished through a cesarean section. The doctor should manually relieve the pressure on the umbilical cord to reduce the risk of oxygen deprivation to the baby until the cesarean section.
If the umbilical cord is promptly and correctly treated there is little risk for permanent injury. The longer the oxygen deprivation to the baby, the greater the risk for birth injuries including nerve damage, brain damage or stillbirth.