The umbilical cord is a cord-like structure that acts as a conduit between the developing fetus and the placenta. It is guarded from harm by a jelly-like film called Wharton's jelly. This gelatinous substance prevents the cord from getting compressed. The cord contains two arteries and a vein through which blood flows. The fetus gets all the required nourishment and oxygen through the umbilical cord. It also carries out the disposal of waste. This cord is cut off after childbirth. As there are no nerves in it, it does not hurt while cutting it off. Some complications related to the delivery involve entanglement around neck at birth, pressure in umbilical cord during birth, prolapsed cord, and knot in the cord.
What are the Likely Complications?
A lot of babies (at least thirty percent) are born with some entanglement of the cord. In the case of twins, there are chances of the cord getting wrapped around the infants' necks in the womb, especially if they are sharing the same sack. Most of the time, the doctor will simply slip it above the head of the baby to facilitate a normal delivery. Sometimes, it is tightly wound and has to be cut before birth, in which case the baby should be delivered as soon as possible. In cases where it is too tight, the baby may suffer from hypoxia, which is characterized by insufficient oxygen supply to the brain. The baby receives oxygen through this cord and not through its nose and mouth, so if it is too tight or compressed, it may pose a problem. There are situations where the cord might be wrapped around the shoulder or arm of the infant, but that is usually not a cause of serious concern, when compared to the cord being wrapped around the neck. If the cord has been around the baby's neck for too long, its APGAR (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration) score may turn out to be low. APGAR is a test conducted on the infant right after the birth, and it is based on the aforementioned variables. The baby may also go on to develop a brain injury which may develop into cerebral palsy. Also, in most cases when the cord is around the neck, the baby is born with a reddish complexion, but this becomes normal within a day or two.
How to Prevent It?
Visiting the consulting doctor periodically is advised. Any change felt should be promptly informed to the doctor, and all the precautionary instructions given by him should be followed. Choosing a good hospital for the delivery can make a difference. Lifting your arms or legs in the pregnancy period doesn't cause complications like cord getting wound around the neck at birth or knotting. There is not much that can be done, other than what is mentioned above, to guarantee the non-occurrence of the complications.
To sum up, this condition is quite normal and should not be considered to be a life-threatening complication. With regular monitoring of the fetus, steps can be taken at the right time to ensure a safe delivery.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.