Umbilical cord complications can arise naturally during childbirth. However if an obstetrician or other medical professional fails to identify and treat a complication this could result in birth injuries or death.
Medical negligence associated with umbilical cord conditions could include:
- Failure to carry out appropriate tests
- Mistakes made in fetal monitoring during labour and delivery i.e. monitoring movement and heartbeat
- Failure to detect fetal distress
- Failure to schedule a necessary C-section
- Delays or mistakes made in the recognition of any umbilical cord condition
- Delays or mistakes made in the treatment for any umbilical cord condition
Mistakes made when dealing with an umbilical cord compression and other complications could decrease oxygen and restrict blood flow to the baby. This lack of oxygen and nutrients could result in serious birth injuries such as:
- Brain damage and cognitive impairment
- Behavioural issues
- Mobility Issues
If mistakes were made by a midwife, obstetrician or other attending medical professional and your baby was harmed as a result of avoidable umbilical cord complications, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
Contact Devonshires Claims medical negligence solicitors for advice on making your birth injury claim. We provide a free no-obligation case evaluation as well as a ‘No Win No Fee‘ agreement, so there are no upfront costs to start your claim and nothing to pay if your case is not successful*. To start your free case evaluation, contact our birth injury claims experts today on 0333 900 8787, email email@example.com or complete our online form.
What is umbilical cord compression
The umbilical cord can be compressed when pressure partially or completely restricts blood flow. If the pressure applied is prolonged, this can result in a reduction of oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
There are two ways this could happen:
- In the womb: The umbilical cord can be compressed by the fetus’s neck or when a knot occurs. It could be also due to pressure between two surfaces i.e., the baby’s head and pelvic bone of the mother. The umbilical cord could become stuck in between resulting in compression.
- During delivery: This usually happens when the baby is in breech birth or where more than two babies are being delivered. The cord drops from the cervix and into the vagina before the baby — a condition called cord prolapse. This then leads to it being compressed by the birth canal and the baby.
Signs of umbilical cord compression
Signs of umbilical cord compression may include:
- a decrease in movement of the baby
- an irregular heartbeat, observed by fetal heart monitoring.
- A drop or prolapse of the umbilical cord into the birth canal
Common causes of umbilical cord compression
- Umbilical cord prolapse
This can occur when the umbilical cord slips into the birth canal ahead of or alongside the baby as it descends during birth. The cord can be compressed thereby reducing blood flow and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby.
A mother may be at risk of an umbilical prolapse due to the following:
- The baby is premature i.e. born before 37 weeks
- The baby has a low birth weight
- The baby is not in a head first position i.e. breech or transverse (lying sideways)
- The umbilical cord is long
- Carrying multiple babies
- Excess amniotic fluid
- A low-lying placenta
Medical professionals such as midwives and obstetricians should be monitoring a woman throughout her pregnancy, noting any risks and intervening as necessary. The need for a Caesarean section may be required to minimise any risks of a birth injury.
2. True knots
True knots are knots in the umbilical cord. They can form from a baby’s movement in the womb. Other causes of true knots include:
- monoamniotic twins (when twins share the same amniotic sac)
- polyhydramnios (excessive amounts of amniotic fluid)
- long umbilical cords
- smaller than normal foetus
- gestational diabetes
- and amniocentesis (a procedure to test the amniotic fluid).
3. Nuchal chords
Nuchal cord is the medical situation when an umbilical cord becomes wrapped around a baby’s neck in the womb.
A nuchal cord is usually caused by a baby’s movement through a loop of the umbilical cord. Fetal heart rate monitors may detect patterns that may indicate such as a situation. This may include a deceleration of the heart rate.
An emergency c-section may be required to prevent the baby experiencing a reduction of blood flow and oxygen.
4. Abnormal levels of amniotic fluid
When there is too little amniotic fluid (a condition known as oligohydramnios), this can increase the risk of the cord becoming compressed between the baby and the wall of the uterus.
When there is too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios), this can also increase the risk of cord compression because it can cause premature rupture of the membranes which in turn can cause an umbilical cord prolapse.
Other umbilical cord complications which pose risks to mother and child
Medical professionals must also be aware of other cord complications and take the required action. These can include:
- Infection of the umbilical cord
An infection of the fetal membranes can spread to the umbilical cord, placenta, the fetus and the amniotic fluid. An umbilical cord infection could potentially lead to fetal inflammatory response syndrome (FIRS) and cause premature birth, neonatal sepsis, periventricular leukomalacia and brain damage.
Medical professionals should be aware of the condition which can be treated with antibiotics.
2. Single artery in the umbilical cord
The umbilical cord contains two arteries and one vein. However, in some women there is only one artery in the cord and this could potentially lead to complications such as:
- Premature birth
- Birth defects
- Heart, kidney, or digestion problems
- Genetic conditions
- Neonatal death (death within the first 28 days of birth).
3. Short umbilical cord
If the baby’s umbilical cord is short the baby’s movements may stretch and tear either the umbilical cord or the mother’s placenta (known as placental abruption).
In a placental abruption the mother may bleed significantly which can seriously affect the health of both mother and child. Urgent medical intervention is required to deal with this situation.
4. Vasa previa
Vasa previa is a condition in which the fetal blood vessels move out of the umbilical cord and into the amniotic sac membranes across the cervix. The blood vessels are then at risk of rupturing during labour and birth – potentially leading to significant blood loss in the mother.
In this condition the obstetrician or other medical professional should consider an early Caesarean section.
Although there is a high risk of fetal mortality in this condition, early diagnosis of the condition leads to a significantly better outcome:
“The fetal mortality rate in this situation is at least 60% despite urgent caesarean delivery. However, improved survival rates of over 95% have been reported where the diagnosis has been made antenatally by ultrasound followed by planned caesarean section.”
Umbilical Cord Compression FAQs
Devonshires Claims‘ solicitors have been supporting victims of medical negligence, including birth injuries, for over 20 years. We take the stress out of pursuing a claim and work hard to secure you and your child the justice and the compensation you deserve.
Once you have contacted us, your free case evaluation will involve us speaking to you to request information on:
- The details of your delivery and the injuries to you or your child, including dates and the names of the staff and hospital you were treated at.
- Any medical records you may have
- Details of any bills and receipts to confirm your financial losses, including medical expenses and loss of income.
The consequences of a birth injury may not be apparent for some time e.g. brain injuries and developmental issues caused by an injury or a lack of glucose or oxygen to the baby may not be immediately apparent. Your solicitor and indeed the court may not be able to determine a final compensation figure for a number of years as the impact of the negligence to a child and his or her future treatment and care requirements may not be fully understood until your child is much older.
Therefore birth injury claims may take a number of years to settle, however interim compensation payments could be available.
Our medical negligence claims experts support victims of birth injuries on a no win no fee basis*.
This means that:
- You will not be charged any costs if your case is not successful and there are no upfront costs to start your claim*.
- If you win you will pay a maximum of 25% from your damages**.
Read our explainer of ‘No Win No Fee’ medical negligence claims for more information.
In all medical and clinical negligence cases, there is a three year limitation period, although there are a few exceptions. The Limitation Act 1980 sets the time limit as running from either the date of the injury, the date of the alleged negligence or from the date the patient was aware that the alleged negligence or harm had occurred – if this was later.
- A mother who received negligent care and treatment before, during and after birth, must bring a claim within 3 years of the date of the injury.
- If your baby was injured during birth, you can make a claim on their behalf anytime up to their 18th birthday. Once the child turns 18, they then have up to 3 years to make a claim.
- If a mother or baby sustained a serious brain injury which damaged their mental capacity, no time limit may apply within which to bring a claim. We recommend that you contact Devonshires Claims if you have any queries involving those who lack capacity and our specialist solicitors will be able to assist.
It is very important that a claim for compensation is started as soon as possible. This will ensure that you have a good recollection of the events which took place and the individuals involved.
Compensation for injuries as a result of umbilical cord negligence during child birth will factor in the following:
- General Damages: This figure covers your and/or your child’s pain and suffering i.e. the injuries directly related to the negligent care or incident.
- Special Damages: These damages cover financial support for:
- Medical equipment
- Medical treatment, i.e. restorative or long-term. This can be provided by a private hospital or specialist
- Travel expenses – which can include travel to and from medical facilities, your solicitors and other trips related to the injury
- Medication required
- Rehabilitation and physiotherapy
- Psychological support for PTSD
- Home modification and adaptation required.
- Loss of earnings –for time off work, loss of income and loss of future income or the prospects of a job promotion
In the event of the death of the mother, a spouse or partner may be able to bring a compensation claim if the death was caused by negligence.
Compensation for umbilical cord mistakes and negligent care during pregnancy and birth
If you feel that the care you or your child received prior to, during or after birth was negligent, you may decide to bring a claim in order to secure justice and compensation for yours and your child’s injuries. Speak to one of our medical negligence solicitors who specialise in birth injuries especially those relating to umbilical cord mistakes and negligence in diagnosing the condition and administering the correct treatment.
Devonshires Claims support victims of medical negligence by providing:
- A free no-obligation case evaluation
- A no win no fee agreement
- A network of medical experts and specialist medical negligence barristers
- Over 20 years’ experience in securing justice and compensation
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