Prolapse of the Umbilical Cord

Sometimes during an expected vaginal delivery, and often when the amniotic sac is broken, which is called rupture of membranes, the rush of fluid that is released through the birth canal may be sufficient to float the umbilical cord down the birth canal and in front of the baby’s head. This is less likely to occur when the head has descended down the birth canal far enough to be “engaged.”? But when the rupture of membranes occurs before the head is engaged, then a portion of the umbilical cord can float down past the head and become trapped between the head and side of the birth canal. If a prolapse of the umbilical cord occurs, blood flow and oxygen to the baby can be completely interrupted and the baby can suffer both hypoxia and asphyxia. When this occurs, the baby must be delivered immediately, usually by an emergency cesarean section, to avoid any significant hypoxic injury to the baby’s brain. Any significant delay in delivery will usually result in a severe injury to the baby.

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