Most women go through pregnancy and labor without complications. However, some women have complications during pregnancy and/or labor. One problem that can occur during labor that can endanger the infant’s life is a prolapsed umbilical cord.

What Happens During an Umbilical Cord Prolapse?

In a standard delivery, the infant’s head exits the birth canal first. However, there are a small number of cases in which the umbilical cord exits the cervix before the infant’s head. The condition is called a prolapsed umbilical cord or overt cord prolapse.

As the infant’s body exits the cervix, the umbilical cord can be compressed by the infant’s head or shoulder. In other words, the umbilical cord is “pinched” between the infant’s and mother’s bodies. 

When the umbilical cord is compressed, the infant’s supply of oxygen and blood is cut off. If immediate intervention is not performed, the infant could suffer a birth injury, including cerebral palsy, brain damage, or fetal hypoxia. In some cases, umbilical cord prolapse can result in the infant’s death.

The treatment for a prolapsed umbilical cord is to release the cord. If the cord cannot be removed from between the infant and the mother’s body, an emergency Caesarean section may need to be performed to save the infant’s life.

Diagnosing Umbilical Cord Prolapse

Unfortunately, nurses or doctors may fail to diagnose umbilical cord prolapse until it is too late to perform a C-section. In other cases, failure to diagnose the prolapse causes the infant to suffer from permanent impairments because of the lack of oxygen. 

During labor and delivery, a fetal heart monitor is used to track the baby’s heart rate. A prolapse can cause the baby’s heart rate to fall below 120 beats per minute. At that point, a pelvic examination might reveal the prolapse so that immediate action can be taken to address the situation. 

During admission, nurses or doctors can identify mothers who might be at risk for umbilical cord prolapse. 

A mother may be at a higher risk for a prolapsed umbilical cord if:

  • The delivery is before 36 weeks
  • Forceps or a vacuum is used during delivery 
  • The infant is in an abnormal position
  • There have been manipulations of the uterus
  • The umbilical cord is long or thin
  • Delivering multiples
  • Premature rupture of the amniotic membranes
  • Excessive amniotic fluid

If a mother has any of the risk factors for umbilical cord prolapse, a fetal doppler test or ultrasound can show where the cord is before birth. The doctor can order a C-section if it appears that there is a risk of umbilical cord prolapse during delivery. 

If you are at risk for umbilical cord prolapse, your physician should monitor you closely to determine whether a C-section is required to protect your baby. Even if you are not at risk, errors, and negligence during labor and delivery can lead to a birth injury. Failure to monitor the mother and infant can result in umbilical cord prolapse. 

When infants are deprived of oxygen during labor and delivery, they can suffer catastrophic birth injuries. The injuries could result in substantial medical care and treatment. When the injuries cause permanent impairments, the infant may require personal care and medical care for a lifetime.

If your infant was injured because of medical negligence or errors, your family could be entitled to substantial compensation for a medical malpractice claim

What is a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Doctors, medical facilities, and other medical providers are held to a standard of care. Deviating from the standard of care can lead to injuries and harm for the patient. You must prove that your doctor deviated from the standard of care, and the deviation caused you or your infant to suffer injuries or harm. 

Medical malpractice occurs for a variety of reasons. Some common causes of medical errors and medical negligence that could lead to a birth injury include:

  • Failing to monitor the mother and infant during the pregnancy
  • Failing to assess risk factors for various pregnancy, labor, and delivery complications
  • Fatigue from long hours and working conditions
  • Missing warning signs and symptoms of conditions or problems
  • Lack of training and experience when performing procedures
  • Failing to review a patient’s medical history or chart
  • Not listening to a patient’s complaints or symptoms
  • Failing to request specialists and emergency care 

If you suspect that you or your child were injured because of medical negligence or medical errors, a medical malpractice lawyer can review your case. The attorney explains your legal rights and options for holding the parties responsible for the injury accountable for their wrongdoing or negligence.