Prolapsed Umbilical Cord

What is a prolapsed cord?

The umbilical cord is prolapsed if it falls into the birth canal ahead of your baby’s head or other parts of your baby’s body. The placenta is tissue that is attached to the inside of the uterus and is attached to the baby by the umbilical cord. It carries oxygen and food from your blood to the baby’s blood. If the cord gets squeezed as the baby passes through the birth canal during labor, the baby may stop getting blood and oxygen. The lack of oxygen can cause brain damage or death if the problem is not taken care of right away.

Umbilical cord prolapse is a rare problem that can happen after your bag of water breaks. It’s a medical emergency and needs to be treated right away.

What is the cause?

A cord prolapse may happen when:

  • There is too much amniotic fluid in the bag of water.
  • The second baby of twins is being born.
  • The baby is lying sideways in the uterus rather than with the head down.
  • The baby is in breech position (the baby’s bottom comes out first during birth).
  • The bag of water breaks before your baby moves down into the birth canal.
  • A baby is born early (prematurely).

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may find the problem when a fetal monitor shows that the baby’s heart rate is slower or abnormal. A fetal monitor is a device to measure your baby’s heart rate and your contractions during labor.

Your healthcare provider may do a pelvic and exam and see or feel the umbilical cord in the vagina (birth canal).

How is it treated?

The baby needs to be delivered right away. In some cases you may be able to deliver the baby vaginally. Or you may need to have an emergency C-section. A C-section is a surgery that delivers your baby through a cut in your belly and uterus.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-03
Last reviewed: 2014-06-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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