What is Umbilical Cord Prolapse? Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Oregon Explains

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Understanding What is Umbilical Cord Prolapse: Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains

While painful, childbirth is often thought to be a beautiful event in the lives of the mother, father, and extended family. While the parents are often aware of the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, most parents anticipate an uncomplicated pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, this is just not always the case. There are times during labor and delivery where things can go wrong, prompting the physician or other healthcare provider to act immediately. One complication that is considered to be a medical emergency is umbilical cord prolapse. If the physician or other healthcare provider fails to act in a timely manner, the baby can suffer complications, including brain damage or even death for the infant.  Understanding what is umbilical cord prolapse is incredibly important to protecting your right to compensation under Oregon law for birth injuries.

What is the Purpose of an Umbilical Cord?

The umbilical cord has many purposes, and is the lifeline to the baby during their time in the womb. The umbilical cord is composed of one vein and two arteries. The umbilical cord moves oxygenated blood from the placenta directly to the fetus. It also serves a purpose to remove waste from the bloodstream of the fetus. In the event of umbilical cord prolapse, or UCP, the umbilical cord may descend or come down towards the cervix and birth canal. It is not harmful to the baby until labor begins and the cord is compressed. 

What is Umbilical Cord Prolapse? 

An UCP occurs when the umbilical cords drops and exits the vagina before the baby has started to exit. When this occurs the baby’s should or head is often compressing the umbilical cord, causing a reduced or near complete loss of blood and oxygen to the baby. If the baby is not delivered immediately, the consequences are catastrophic. While not terribly common (occurring in 1.4-6.2 per 1000 births), this medical emergency can have deadly consequences is not dealt with appropriately and immediately. 

What are the Types of UCP?

There are three different types of UCP. These include the following:

  • Occult prolapse – This occurs when the umbilical cord is in front of the baby’s head or next to the baby’s head. As the baby descends out of the birth canal, it cord becomes compressed, not allowing the baby to receive enough oxygenated
  • Overt umbilical cord prolapse – This type of umbilical cord prolapse occur when the membranes rupture (the mother’s water breaks). When this occurs, the baby needs to be delivered immediately. Additionally, a physician may elevate the part of the fetus that is coming out to prevent cord compression. This may be the most serious type of UCP, causing the greatest risk for birth injuries
  • Funic Presentation – This type of UCP is the most rare. In this case, the umbilical cord is between the presenting part of the fetus (often the head) and the enraptured membranes. The umbilical cord does not descend out of the vagina

What are the Risk Factors for UCP?

There are some risk factors that may put the baby at risk for umbilical cord prolapse. Risk factors for UCP include the following:

  • Polyhydramnios
  • Preterm labor
  • Abnormal presentation of the fetus (i.e. frank breech, footling)
  • Abnormal size of umbilical cord (abnormally long)
  • Multiple gestation birth (i.e. twins, triplets)
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Premature rupture of the membranes
  • The baby needs to be delivered before 36 weeks
  • Use of vacuum extraction or forceps for delivery

How is UCP Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis of UCP is critical to prevent harm or death of the baby. An umbilical cord prolapse may be identified with the following:

  • Fetal heart monitoring – The baby is continuously monitored during labor and delivery. If the baby is having heart decelerations, bradycardia or significant and severe variable decelerations which can indicate there is an UCP
  • Physical assessment – Doctors perform pelvic exams periodically to see how far a woman has dilated and how effaced (thin) her cervix is. Upon assessment, the doctor should be able to feel the umbilical cord with their fingers

How is UCP Treated?

If umbilical cord prolapse is diagnosed in advance, the baby can be delivered via c-section. Amnioinfusion is also used to to reduce the pressure to lower the chances of umbilical cord compression. 

Consequences of UCP Due to Oregon Medical Malpractice

While a baby with UCP may not suffer any consequences if the physician or other healthcare provider identifies and treats the UCP in a timely manner, babies who do not receive intervention in a timely manner will suffer complications of umbilical cord prolapse. Untimely treated UCP may cause complications, including the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • Developmental delays
  • Death

How Can Complications From Umbilical Cord Prolapse be Caused by Medical Malpractice in Oregon?

While the occurrence of UCP cannot always be predicted, identification of the problem when it does occur is essential. If a provider identifies umbilical cord prolapse, it can be treated in a timely manner to avoid serious harm to the newborn. However, there are times when the provider may fail to identify UCP or may provide improper treatment. 

Examples of complications due to medical malpractice include the following:

  • Failing to identify UCP in a timely manner
  • Providing improper treatment of UCP
  • Failing to more closely monitor for UCP in patients with identified risks (i.e. Polyhydramnios, preterm deliveries, etc.). 
  • Choosing to proceed with a vaginal delivery instead of a c-section when umbilical cord prolapse is identified in advance (i.e. when the mother’s membranes rupture)
  • Failing to identify decelerations or severe variability on fetal heart rate monitor, which could indicate there is umbilical cord compression.

The damages from umbilical cord prolapse can be significant and result in serious personal injury to both the baby and the mother.

Understanding Medical Malpractice in Oregon: What is Umbilical Cord Prolapse and How it Affects Your Family

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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