The birth of a newborn is supposed to be a special moment for a family, but there are many events that can turn this joyous occasion into a traumatic ordeal. One of these events is learning that the umbilical cord has wrapped around your child’s neck before delivery. This occurrence, called nuchal cord, can potentially lead to significant birth injuries for your child.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nuchal cords occur in 10 to 30% of fetuses. In some cases, a nuchal cord does not cause any immediate problems, and the matter can be addressed during delivery. In other circumstances, though, a nuchal cord presents a medical emergency, and prompt action is needed.

Common Causes Leading To Nuchal Cords

If your doctor informs you that a nuchal cord has developed with your fetus, it is important to remember that this condition is not uncommon and you did not cause it. 

While a precise cause may be difficult to identify, nuchal cords can develop with:

  • Excessive baby movement, which causes the umbilical cord to wrap around the neck
  • Excess amniotic fluid, which allows both the fetus and the umbilical cord to move more freely
  • An extra-long umbilical cord, which can more easily wrap around the baby’s neck
  • Twins or triplets

You are not likely to have any indication that a nuchal cord has developed until you visit your doctor. An ultrasound image can reveal the existence of a nuchal cord. So long as there is no immediate danger to your child, your doctor may not address the nuchal cord until your baby is delivered.

What Can Go Wrong With a Nuchal Cord?

While learning that your baby has the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck may sound alarming, it is important to keep in mind that babies do not breathe air until they are delivered. In normal cases, your doctor will move or slide the nuchal cord away from your baby’s neck as you are giving birth.

Your medical team must closely monitor your baby’s heart rate. If the nuchal cord is too tight, it can cause your baby’s heart rate to drop to an unsafe level. If this is not corrected immediately, your baby may be stillborn. An emergency Cesarean section (C-section) may be necessary to preserve your child’s life.

Another risk from a nuchal cord is anoxia, a serious condition in which the brain does not receive sufficient oxygen. During delivery, if your baby is trying to breathe but cannot due to a nuchal cord, your child’s brain may not receive the oxygen it needs. Brain damage can result in minutes if the flow of oxygen is not restored. 

Depending on when the nuchal cord is resolved and oxygen flow restored, your child could be left with brain injury complications such as seizures, difficulty with motor skills, learning difficulties, behavioral challenges, and other similar difficulties.

An Umbilical Cord Wrapped Around the Neck Should Be a Cause For Concern, Not Alarm

So long as your healthcare team is aware of a nuchal cord and is monitoring your child’s vital signs, an umbilical cord wrapped around your fetus’s neck need not be a reason for panic. However, if your provider dismisses your concerns or does not monitor your child’s vital signs before and during delivery, the risk of harm to your child increases. 

If an injury does occur to your child because of an undiagnosed nuchal cord or a failure to take appropriate action, you may have legal rights to compensation due to medical malpractice.

Contact a Houston Birth Injury Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000

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