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Umbilical Cord Compression

The umbilical cord delivers oxygen-rich blood to the fetus. During labor, the cord can become stretched or compressed, interrupting this vital flow. Umbilical cord compression is a relatively common condition, occurring about once every ten deliveries, and often transpires when the cord becomes caught between the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvic bone or when it becomes wrapped around the baby’s neck. Once this happens, the blood flow is interrupted and the level of oxygen that the baby receives begins to decrease. If the baby is deprived of oxygen for a significant amount of time, a condition called hypoxia, it can develop severe injuries including brain damage, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, or developmental delays. Fortunately, this deprivation is detectable. The diminished blood flow can cause short and sudden decreases in the baby’s heart rate, which become visible on a fetal heart rate monitor. Often times, when this is detected, simply administered oxygen to the woman to increase the amount available to the baby is sufficient. In some cases, however, if the baby’s oxygen level is extremely low or if it begins showing other signs of distress, it is necessary to deliver the baby as soon as possible and the doctor may have to perform an emergency c-section. Under these circumstances, time is essential. Mistakes and carelessness by doctors and nurses that delay the operation amount to medical malpractice and can cause permanent brain damage to the baby.