Almost 11,000 babies are born every day across this nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although childbirth is a common occurrence, labor and delivery complications are also common. While there are many birthing complications that occur for a variety of reasons, one of the most common complications arises when infants don’t receive adequate oxygen during labor and delivery.
Unborn babies rely on their mothers’ placentas and umbilical cords to receive oxygen, water, and nutrients during the nine months of pregnancy. However, the importance of the umbilical cord doesn’t stop there; it needs to provide oxygen all the way up until a baby takes his or her first breath following delivery.
Understanding the Importance of the Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord is the lifeline between the fetus and the mother. It connects the baby to the placenta, which allows for oxygen to be transported to the baby, carbon dioxide to be transferred out, and nutrients transported from the placenta to the baby. All of this occurs through the two arteries and one vein that make up the umbilical cord. Because the umbilical cord is critical for the baby to receive adequate oxygen, it is important that no problems occur involving the umbilical cord during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Umbilical Cord Errors
Although rare, umbilical cord problems can occur during pregnancy that can adversely affect the fetus. The umbilical cord can get wrapped around the baby’s neck and prevent the necessary blood flow and oxygen to the baby. This is why it is critical that an obstetrician listen to the baby’s heart beat at every doctor’s visit during pregnancy. If there is any concern of umbilical cord entanglement, an ultrasound should be ordered.
The most common way that an umbilical cord would cause serious problems for an infant is when the baby is being pushed out of the birthing canal. The cord can be compressed—cutting off oxygen to a baby and putting the newborn at risk for suffering serious health issues. The causes of umbilical cord compression can include:
- Nuchal cord. The cord becomes tightly wrapped and twisted around an infant’s neck. This can occur as a single coil or when the cord is coiled around the neck of the fetus multiple times. Although there are certain factors that put a baby at risk for a nuchal loop such as large infant size, twins, breech position, and excessive amniotic fluid, proper medical care should be able to identify such issues and prevent umbilical cord injuries from occurring.
- Knotted umbilical cord. Knots can form on the umbilical cord during pregnancy when the baby flips and turns in the womb. Generally, these knots are loose and don’t present a problem for the baby; however, sometimes the knot can tighten during delivery and cause oxygen deprivation.
- Cord prolapse. The umbilical cord comes out of the uterus and through the mother’s open cervix ahead of the baby. When this occurs, although rare, pressure is put on the cord which can cause a sudden decrease in fetal heart rate.
When any of these medical emergencies occur, a doctor only has seconds to unwrap the cord or order an emergency cesarean section before oxygen deprivation occurs. Sadly, many umbilical cord problems go unnoticed and aren’t given the timely attention they deserve. Consequently, an umbilical cord error can decrease oxygen and restrict the blood flow to the baby. Unfortunately, the outcome of any type of umbilical cord problem can be serious, including: seizures, brain damage, paralysis, and even death.
Sadly a baby’s life can forever change due to a doctor’s negligence in failing to attend to the umbilical cord problem. As a result, a baby may suffer physical impairments, cognitive problems, and behavioral issues. If a doctor failed to recognize an umbilical cord problem or failed to act quickly, medical malpractice may be behind your baby’s birth injury. For help seeking justice, please call our office for a free consultation to learn about your rights.