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Prolapsed Umbilical Cord

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

What is a prolapsed umbilical cord?

The umbilical cord is the tube full of blood vessels that connects you to your baby while you're pregnant. The cord comes out of the baby's belly button, which is called the umbilicus. The umbilical cord carries blood with nutrients and oxygen from your placenta to your baby. When you give birth, usually the baby is delivered first and then the umbilical cord comes out after the baby.

Prolapse means something has fallen out of where it belongs. A prolapsed umbilical cord is an umbilical cord that has fallen out in front of your baby during delivery. When this happens, the umbilical cord can get pinched shut between your baby and your pelvic bones. This cuts off the baby's blood supply, which can be rapidly fatal.

Placenta, cord, and fetus

What causes a prolapsed umbilical cord?

Obvious prolapse can happen when:

  • Your water breaks early

  • Your baby hasn't moved down into your pelvis before your water breaks

  • Your baby comes out feet first or bottom first (breech delivery)

How can doctors tell if I have a prolapsed umbilical cord?

Doctors can usually see a prolapse when the umbilical cord is sticking out of the vagina. If the cord isn't sticking out, doctors suspect a prolapse if your baby has an unusual heartbeat.

How do doctors treat a prolapsed umbilical cord?

If the cord is sticking out of your vagina, you will need to have a C-section right away. Until surgery begins, a nurse or doctor holds the baby's body off the cord so that the blood supply isn't cut off.

If the cord isn't sticking out of your vagina, doctors will have you lie in a different position to take pressure off the cord. You may need a C-section if this doesn't work.

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