Umbilical Cord Wrapping Around the Neck of the Baby – Is Nuchal Cord Dangerous?

Umbilical Cord Wrapping Around the Neck of the Baby – Is Nuchal Cord Dangerous?

Your pregnancy is going utter smooth and all of a sudden, at the last month you come to know that the umbilical cord in the womb is tied around the neck of your baby. What would be your reaction? Obviously, you would think it’s a dangerous situation. But this is not usually the case. Let’s know how risky this condition is and how it is treated.

Nuchal cord

Nuchal cord is a technical term used for umbilical cord wrapping around baby’s neck. This condition can occur during pregnancy, labor or even at the time of birth. Nuchal cord is of two types A & B. Type A means the cord is loosely wrapped while type B means the cord is tightly wrapped.

Is nuchal cord risky?

The umbilical cord is the lifeline of your child. It provides the baby with essential nutrients, blood and oxygen to survive and develop. Any problem occurring in this organ can pose risk to your child. But the majority of the nuchal cord cases aren’t dangerous, though it may seem that the baby would choke, suffocate or get strangled. Irrespective of the types, this condition rarely causes any serious risk.

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How common is nuchal cord?

This condition is fairly common and about 1 in 3 babies are born healthy with the umbilical cord wrapped around their neck. There is neither any way to avoid it nor it is ever caused by anything the mother has done during pregnancy or labor.

About 1 in about 2,000 births will have type B or true knot in the cord that could pose some risk. Even in these rare cases, the cord isn’t tight enough to pose danger unless nuchal cord cuts off blood flow or oxygen supply to the baby.

Causes and risk factors of nuchal cord

No one knows better than a pregnant woman as how much a baby moves inside her body. This acrobatics of the baby is the most primary factor of nuchal cord, but there are other causes that need to be mentioned here.

Normally, healthy umbilical cords are secured by a soft filling, a gelatinous substance known as Wharton’s jelly. This jelly is designed to keep the cord knot-free irrespective of the number of somersaults the baby does inside the womb. Some umbilical cords lack sufficient amount of Wharton’s jelly which might raise the chances of nuchal cord.

Some other risk factors are:

Are there any signs or symptoms that indicate nuchal cord?

There are no noticeable signs of a nuchal cord. You will not experience any physical change in your body during pregnancy. It’s nearly impossible for a pregnant woman to understand or tell if the baby has nuchal cord.

Complications due to nuchal cord 

Complications arising from this condition are extremely rare. The most common complication that arises out of these rare incidents is compression of the umbilical cord during contractions. This can create following problems:

  • Reduction in the supply of blood
  • Rapid heart rate of the baby
  • Birth asphyxia characterized by lack of oxygen and blood to the brain

However, it is vital that the pregnant woman must keep a tab on her stress level. If this is the case, you have to consult your gynecologist so that she can calm down your mind. In rare cases where baby’s heart rate continues to drop, the doctor may suggest emergency c-section delivery.

Diagnosis – How nuchal cord is detected?

Though nuchal cord has no indicators, it can only be diagnosed via ultrasound. And even through ultrasound, it can be very difficult for a doctor to diagnose the condition. Even if it is diagnosed, the doctors can’t tell you if nuchal cord poses any risk to the baby.

So if you are diagnosed with the nuchal cord, there is no need to fright. The umbilical cord may unravel or untangle on its own before labor kicks off. If your doctor sees any health risks they would be putting you on extra monitoring.

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Are there any management or treatment methods for nuchal cord?

Nothing can be done or prevent nuchal cord until the delivery. If a woman is diagnosed of nuchal cord during the pregnancy, they shouldn’t panic and let the course of pregnancy complete its term. However, most of the complications due to nuchal cord arise only during labor.

If the umbilical cord is compressed, it can hinder blood flow to the baby that may lead to decreased heart rate. If your medical team is able to detect the problem, they can effectively control the situation with proper monitoring. And in majority of the cases, the baby is born without any problems. In cases where baby’ heart rate is continuously dropping, the doctor might go for emergency cesarean delivery.

It rarely happens that the nuchal cord may lead to decreased fetal movement or decreased development if the condition occurs early in pregnancy.

Outlook

Nuchal cord is not a serious condition. There is no need to panic if the nuchal cord is detected early in pregnancy as you will not be able to do anything in this case. In majority of the cases, it is neither dangerous to mother nor to the baby. If complications occur, the medical team will be well equipped to handle the situation.

The nuchal cord might be a tangled mess, but you don’t have to mess yourself. Just be unworried as taking stress would prove unhealthy for your baby. Keep your chin up. If you still have concerns, talk to your gynecologist and clear your doubts about nuchal cord and its related complications.

Sources

1. Joshi K et al.(2017). Incidence of cord around the neck and its effects on labour and neonatal outcome read more
2. Peesay M(2017). Nuchal cord and its implications read more
3. Collins JH(2012, August). Umbilical cord accidents 
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