Merck Manual

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Umbilical Cord Prolapse


Julie S. Moldenhauer

, MD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
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Umbilical cord prolapse is abnormal position of the cord in front of the fetal presenting part, so that the fetus compresses the cord during labor, causing fetal hypoxemia.

The prolapsed umbilical cord may be

  • Occult: Contained within the uterus

  • Overt: Protruding from the vagina

Both are uncommon.

Occult prolapse

In occult prolapse, the cord is often compressed by a shoulder or the head. The only clue may be a fetal heart rate pattern (detected by fetal monitoring) that suggests cord compression and progression to hypoxemia (eg, severe bradycardia, severe variable decelerations).

Overt prolapse

Treatment of overt prolapse begins with gently lifting the presenting part and continuously holding it off the prolapsed cord to restore fetal blood flow while immediate cesarean delivery is done. Placing the woman in the knee-to-chest position and giving her terbutaline 0.25 mg IV once may help by reducing contractions.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Brethaire, Brethine
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NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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