Umbilical cord prolapse (UCP) is rare. But when it happens, a baby faces a high risk of death or birth injury.
Injury or death happens when the prolapse causes the baby or the mother’s body to compress the umbilical cord. This means that proper diagnosis and treatment can prevent harm to the baby. It also means that carelessness by a medical professional can result in a preventable injury or death.
Here is some information about UCP and the damages you can recover for the resulting injuries.
How Does UCP Happen?
UCP happens when the umbilical cord connecting a baby to its mother falls out of its normal position and into the cervix. By itself, UCP does not harm a baby. But it can lead to cord compression. Cord compression places the baby in extreme danger of brain damage or death.
Compression happens when the cord gets trapped between the baby and the mother’s bony or soft tissue. This compression will cut off the supply of blood to the baby. As a result, the baby will be deprived of oxygen.
The baby’s heart will struggle to keep the brain oxygenated, leading to spikes in heart rate. If the compression lasts more than a few minutes, the baby can suffer permanent brain damage or die.
Why is UCP so Dangerous?
UCP and cord compression can result in:
- Cardiac arrest
- Cerebral palsy
A child that is delivered successfully after UCP can still suffer effects from fetal hypoxia. This condition can cause autism, learning disabilities, and developmental problems.
Risk Factors for UCP
UCP does not need to result in death or injury. By recognizing the risk factors for UCP, doctors can monitor the pregnancy and labor carefully to recognize UCP and intervene.
Some conditions that increase the risk of UCP include:
Preterm Rupture of Membranes (PROM)
PROM happens when your water breaks days or weeks before labor begins. When PROM occurs more than eight weeks before birth, the risk of UCP and cord compression might reach as high as 76%.
Breech presentation happens when a baby is positioned with the feet or buttocks toward the birth canal. About 36.5% of UCP cases result from a breech presentation that doctors allow to continue to natural birth.
Multiple pregnancies increase the risk of UCP. Before the 1940s, multiparity was the most common cause of UCP. Since the 1940s, the use of Cesarean-section deliveries for subsequent pregnancies has reduced the risk of UCP.
A pregnancy with twins or triplets has a high risk of UCP. The risk is particularly high for the second and subsequent babies delivered.
Preterm labor increases the risk of UCP slightly. But most cases of UCP occur in full-term deliveries.
This condition happens when your body has too much amniotic fluid. It increases the risk of UCP by raising the likelihood of PROM and preterm labor.
Preventing Birth Injuries from UCP
Doctors can prevent UCP from causing birth injuries in several ways, including:
- Discussing your pregnancy history to identify risk factors in advance
- Monitoring pregnancies with risk factors associated with UCP
- Intervening within 30 minutes of UCP onset
The most effective intervention for UCP is Cesarean delivery. This prevents the baby from compressing the umbilical cord in the birth canal.
Compensation for Birth Injuries from UCP
You can pursue compensation for birth injuries in a medical malpractice lawsuit. To prove medical malpractice, you must show that the medical care you and your baby received was not reasonable under the circumstances.
As discussed previously, several conditions increase the risk of UCP. A doctor might have committed malpractice if the doctor failed to:
- Identify these factors
- Increase monitoring after identifying these factors
- Recognize UCP when it happens
- Intervene when UCP occurs
The compensation you can recover for medical malpractice will seek to cover your baby’s future medical bills and lost income. Since UCP can lead to brain damage, these losses could be significant.