Long Umbilical Cord In Pregnancy – How Does it Affect the Health of the Baby?

Long Umbilical Cord In Pregnancy – How Does it Affect the Health of the Baby?

Umbilical cord forms a bridge between the developing baby and the mother. It is vital to know the health concerns related to umbilical cord as baby’s nutritional and oxygen needs are depended on this organ. Any impact on this organ can affect the outcome of the pregnancy. Length of umbilical cord is one such important factor that needs to be checked thoroughly.

Long umbilical cord

The umbilical cord is a conduit or channel between the developing embryo and the mother. It contains two arteries and one vein for the supply of blood and oxygen. The length of this organ is extremely important as it can affect the development of the fetus in the womb. And as a result, it can affect the outcome of the pregnancy.

What should be the ideal length of umbilical cord?

Just as every pregnancy is unique, so the length of the umbilical cord. The cord reaches its full length around 28th week of pregnancy. The normal length of an umbilical cord is considered in the range of 55-60 cm. Usually, the definition of ‘long cord’ varies, however, a cord can be considered long if it is more than 70-80 cm.

What causes umbilical cord to become long?

What makes umbilical cord become lengthy is exactly not known. However, studies have pointed that this condition happens more in single pregnancy as compared to multiple pregnancies. The research is presently underway to pinpoint the relevant cause.

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Risk factors – Who gets long umbilical cord?

It is estimated that long umbilical cord occurs in 7 percent of all pregnancies. Pregnant women of all ages can get long umbilical cord, irrespective of male and female embryos. Women predisposed to following factors can develop long umbilical cord.

Risk factor does not necessarily mean that one will definitely get the condition. These factors only increase the chances as compared to healthy individuals without risk factors.

Signs of long umbilical cord – These symptoms must be checked

No pregnant woman can tell the length of the umbilical cord through signs and symptoms. This can only be diagnosed properly by a doctor. The signs of long umbilical cord include:

  • When there is obstruction of blood flow to the baby
  • When umbilical cord is compressed
  • Too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios)
  • Wrapping of the long umbilical cord around the fetal body

Complications – How long umbilical cord can affect pregnancy?

Typically, long umbilical cord does not induce any complications. However, there are concerns related to long umbilical cord a woman should know. These include:

In very rare cases, long cord wrapped around the neck of the fetus can choke him and hence, might result in stillbirth

Diagnosis of long umbilical cord

Pregnant women should undergo routine prenatal check to keep evaluating her condition. The diagnosis of the long umbilical cord can involve following things:

Physical examination

The doctor would be checking the physical signs and symptoms followed by questions on medical history.

Prenatal ultrasound

While ultrasound is able to provide a glimpse of the womb, there are some limitations. It can indicate a possibility but accurate assessment of the length is not possible. It can only be done after childbirth.

Placenta examination

A pathologist may conduct a careful evaluation of the placental tissue after child birth or gross visual examination via microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

There could be several conditions with similar symptoms. So, the doctor may perform additional tests to rule out other conditions before arriving at a certain diagnosis.

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Solution for long umbilical cord

The condition cannot be treated in utero. However, the team of doctor would perform following measures to prevent complications. These measures include:

Elective cesarean

If the diagnosis is confirmed during pregnancy, then the doctor may suggest elective cesarean delivery.

Operative vaginal delivery

If the condition is diagnosed during labor, then operative vaginal delivery using forceps and vacuum extractor can be performed.

Emergency c-section

In case the long umbilical cord is detected during childbirth and if it seems to pose risks, then doctor would go for emergency c-section.

As long umbilical cord is one of the high-risk pregnancies, regular monitoring especially in the last trimester is extremely necessary. Depending on the case, the doctor may decide the course of action after analyzing all the perspectives.

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Is development of long umbilical cord preventable?

There are no definitive measures to prevent this condition. However, following tips must be considered as essential:

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption before and during pregnancy
  • Keep a check on your weight
  • Good control of diabetes during pregnancy
  • Careful and routine monitoring during pregnancy
  • Healthy eating

As far as you are following healthy lifestyle and avoiding the risk factors, you should be on the safe side. This would not only prevent the development of long umbilical cord but also many other conditions which are associated with this complication. Talk to your doctor for more information on your health.

Sources

1. Shunji Suzuki and Masahiko Kato(2015, September). Clinical Significance of Pregnancies Complicated by Velamentous Umbilical Cord Insertion Associated With Other Umbilical Cord/Placental Abnormalities read more
2. Bohîlțea RE et al.(2016, July). Prenatal ultrasound diagnosis and pregnancy outcome of umbilical cord knot – debate regarding ethical aspects of a series of cases read more
3. Nilesh Unmesh and Mangala Ashok Shinde(2012, October). Study of Length of Umbilical Cord and Fetal Outcome: A Study of 1,000 Deliveries read more
4. Creasy and Resnik's Maternal–Fetal Medicine: Principles and Practice Sixth edition read more