Tragically, the infant mortality rate in the United States is significantly higher than in other developed countries. Pregnancy and birth complications are one of the main reasons for the high mortality rate. 

Umbilical cord prolapse (UCP) is a rare but extremely dangerous condition that may result in permanent brain damage, cerebral palsy, or stillbirth. 

What Is Cord Prolapse?

Cord prolapse happens during labor just before a mother is ready to deliver. In a typical delivery, the baby moves through the cervix first and into the vagina pulling the umbilical cord behind it. In the case of funic presentation, the umbilical cord drops (prolapses) through the cervix first, and the baby follows. 

Funic presentation poses a danger because the cord can become compressed between the baby and the mother’s body. At this point in delivery, the fetus is still dependent on the umbilical cord to provide oxygen. A constricted cord cuts off the baby’s supply of blood and oxygen. The situation can become worse with every contraction. 

It’s estimated that UCP happens in only one out of every 300 births. Fortunately, the rate of cord prolapse is declining, but for those who experience this complication, the results can be devastating. 

The Causes of Umbilical Cord Prolapse

Several factors can contribute to umbilical cord compression. Most cases occur after the water breaks, so it is believed that the flow of amniotic fluid plays a role. Other risks include:

  • Breech presentation 
  • Being pregnant with more than one fetus
  • Polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid)
  • Premature membrane rupture 
  • Low birth weight

Actions of the medical team may also cause umbilical cord prolapse. Procedures like assisted vaginal delivery with forceps or a vacuum, amniotomy (breaking water by medical assistance), or balloon insertion to ripen the cervix, can also increase the risk of a birth injury

Risk Assessment for Umbilical Cord Compression

UCP cannot be predicted, and not all birth complications can be prevented. However, medical providers should be able to identify patients who are at risk. Proper planning by the medical team can reduce risk and prevent harm to the fetus if cord prolapse does occur. 

Both ultrasound imaging and a fetal Doppler test can be used to show how the cord is placed before birth. In the case of an overt cord prolapse — when the cord is coming out in front of the baby’s head, an emergency C-section can protect the health of the baby and the mother. Continuing to push or using vacuum extraction increases the risk of cord compression. 

In addition to C-section delivery, amnioinfusion can help reduce pressure inside the birth canal and ease compression of the umbilical cord. 

Umbilical cord compression can lead to catastrophic injuries as well as death. The cost of caring for a child with permanent disabilities pales in comparison to the heartbreak and concern you have for your child’s health and future.

Some causes of medical errors that could lead to UCP include:

  • Failure to assess pregnancy risk factors
  • Failure to monitor the mother during pregnancy and/or delivery
  • Not listening to a patient’s complaints 
  • Failure to ask for specialists or emergency care
  • Failure to properly review the mother’s medical history
  • Lack of experience or training
  • Fatigue from poor working conditions or long hours

All doctors and medical facilities are held to a standard of care. If that standard is deviated from and causes harm to the patient, the patient deserves to be compensated. 

Umbilical cord prolapse can change your family’s life forever. Coping with grief, medical bills, and the ongoing costs of care can be overwhelming. If you suspect your baby was injured because of a medical error, speak with a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced lawyer can review your case and provide legal options for holding the responsible parties accountable.

Contact the Atlanta Birth Injury Law Firm of Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers for Help Today

If you or a close one have suffered from medical malpractice in Atlanta, GA, please call Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers at (770) 390-7550 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation today.

Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers
2 Ravinia Dr NE Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30346