What Is Nuchal Cord And How Can It Be Dangerous To Your Baby?
A nuchal cord occurs when the umbilical cord loops around the neck of the baby. Nuchal cords can be dangerous because they can lead to a decreased level of blood and oxygen in the baby. When the umbilical cord grows longer than usual, the risk of a nuchal cord increases. In addition, nuchal cords are often seen most in boys. Add a longer cord than normal, plus an active baby during pregnancy, and the risk of a nuchal cord can increase.
Because of the risk of the nuchal cord interrupting the flow of oxygen to the baby, doctors must be ready to move to a C-Section delivery if the baby is no longer tolerating the vaginal delivery. The electronic fetal heart monitor can help doctors determine if the baby is no longer tolerating a vaginal delivery. Often the strip will reveal a sharp decline in the fetal heart rate. Generally, a normal fetal heart rate is around 120-160 beats per minute.
Double Nuchal Cord
When the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck twice this is called a double nuchal cord. A double nuchal cord is rarer than a nuchal cord, but still presents the same concerns and dangers. The loops, as explained above, can restrict the oxygen flow to the baby. This reduced level of oxygen can create fetal hypoxia, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.
Signs And Symptoms/Diagnosis For Nuchal Cord
As for the signs and symptoms, a nuchal cord can reveal itself during labor and delivery through help from the fetal heart monitor. The monitor may suggest problems with the baby’s heart rate. Before labor and delivery, doctors can use ultra sounds to determine whether the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck. The use of Doppler can give a better reading to doctors. Doctors will look to see if the cord is completely wrapped around the neck, or partially wrapped. In addition, doctors will examine whether there is a nuchal cord, or double nuchal cord.
Nuchal Cord Risk Factors
Below are some of the risk factors associated with nuchal cord:
Umbilical Cord Longer Than 70cm
Pregnancy More Than 42 Weeks
Twins & Multiple Babies
How Birth Injuries Can Sometimes Present Due To Nuchal Cord
Fetal hypoxia is one of the main areas of concern when a nuchal cord is present. In some cases, a nuchal cord can resolve itself before delivery. However, in the cases in which the nuchal cord
A nuchal cord can lead to fetal hypoxia because the cord can become compressed and restrict blood and oxygen. The baby is “strangled” in the general sense that blood and oxygen is restricted. As the baby moves further down the birth canal, the cord can become compressed even further.
The following are the types of birth injuries which can result from nuchal cord:
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy: This medical condition stems from a decreased level of blood and oxygen (profusion) leading to a brain injury. In a nuchal cord delivery, cord compression can lead to HIE.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome: MAS can be the result of fetal distress. The baby’s abnormal heart rate can be a sign of fetal distress. Meconium is the baby’s stool and can be dangerous to the baby, if inhaled. When the fluid is stained in meconium, doctors will check at delivery to determine whether the substance has reached below the baby’s vocal cords.
Death: The lack of blood and oxygen always presents danger to the baby. If this lack of blood and oxygen outpaces the baby’s fetal reserves, death can result.
How Can Doctors Treat Nuchal Cord?
One of the main concerns for doctors when nuchal cord is present is to prevent cord compression. Determining if there is a double nuchal cord, and how tight the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck are areas of examination. When the cord is loose, doctors can manipulate it from around the baby’s neck.
In some cases, doctors may be able to slip the cord over the baby’s shoulder and then deliver the baby through the cord loop. A somersault maneuver can be attempted if the cord is too tight to move over the shoulders.
However, if these maneuvers do not resolve the nuchal cord, and the delivery is prolonged, then an emergency C-Section needs to be scheduled due to the threat of cord compression and fetal hypoxia/asphyxia. If doctors delay the move to an emergency C-Section, fetal hypoxia, or death can ensue.
Was Your Baby’s Cord Wrapped Around The Neck And Now Has A Brain Injury?
Nuchal cord can be dangerous for a child. Parents can be alerted to a possible brain injury in their child due to certain circumstances. For example, the baby may be blue in color, pass meconium, must be rushed to the NICU, and suffer seizures, with the seizures being an important sign of possible brain injury. A nuchal cord can create all these things when doctors fail to recognize and treat the condition properly.
Boston Law Group, LLC represents victims of birth injury and medical malpractice throughout Maryland. We can help victims in:
Prince George’s County
Anne Arundel County
St. Mary’s County
Was the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around your baby's neck and now the baby has a brain injury?
Don’t leave your child’s future challenges to chance.
Download our free birth injury e-book now to learn more.