A beautiful souvenir from birth is the belly button. It is a reminder that the mother-child connection is vital to life when the fetus receives nourishment through the umbilical cord. Optimally, the umbilical cord runs from the placenta’s center to the fetus’s belly, bringing nutrients to the fetus while sending waste out. However, problems arise when the cord does not attach properly. Improper placement or insertion of the umbilical cord can result in complications threatening the baby’s life.
Understanding Abnormal Cord Insertion
When a physician becomes aware that improper cord insertion may complicate pregnancy, they carefully monitor the cord during the pregnancy to be prepared for possible complications at birth. The degree of concern depends on where the umbilical cord inserts into the placenta. Two abnormal cord insertions are marginal and velamentous. Marginal cord insertion is an umbilical cord attached to the side instead of the center of the placenta. The center provides the strongest attachment. A side attachment threatens to affect the growth of the placenta, endangering the fetus and potentially causing severe complications.
Though velamentous cord insertions are a smaller percentage of all abnormal cord insertions, much lower than marginal cord insertions, they are the most life-threatening. Velamentous cord insertion occurs when the umbilical cord inserts into the amniotic sac on its way to the placenta. The amniotic sac holds the fetus. As such, the condition causes exposure of an unprotected section of blood vessels before they connect inside the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord produces Wharton’s jelly to protect the cord’s blood vessels from bending and interrupting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.
Another abnormal cord insertion, eccentric cord insertion, occurs when the cord inserts a smaller distance from the center, off to the side, like marginal cord insertion. Eccentric cord insertions are not as grave of a concern, but doctors monitor the condition when they find it. On the other hand, marginal and velamentous insertions are more serious, with the latter being the more serious of the abnormal cord insertion types.
Abnormal Cord Insertion Risks and Causes
Though the exact causes of abnormal cord insertion may be a mystery, scientific studies associate twin or multiple births after fertility treatment and umbilical cord defects with higher incidences of the condition. Risk factors for the condition also include maternal smoking, diabetes, and advanced age. However, the condition may arise during normal pregnancy development when the placenta moves to a more hospitable site within the uterus and the cord inserts incorrectly.
What are the Possible Consequences of Abnormal Umbilical Cord Insertion?
The umbilical cord is the channel for vital nutrient and waste exchange between the growing fetus and its mother. The placenta, located in the uterus, is where the exchange of nutrients to the fetus and wastes to the mother occurs via the umbilical cord’s two arteries and one blood vessel. An abnormal placenta disrupts that vital exchange, potentially leading to premature birth, oxygen deprivation, stunted fetal growth, stillbirth, and a cesarean section. It can also cause blood clots, placental abruption, and preeclampsia, requiring cesarean births. Thus, abnormal cord insertion is dangerous. Although marginal cord insertion can right itself as the fetus develops, a graver concern arises when velamentous cord insertion develops.
The Most Dangerous Problem Associated with Velamentous Cord Insertion
Though rare, the velamentous insertion often causes vasa previa and, sometimes, placenta previa, and thus, is of genuine concern. Placenta previa occurs when the placenta partially or completely covers the cervix and can cause excessive bleeding at or after birth. When the cord inserts in the amniotic sac, the fetus’s unprotected blood vessels may stretch out over the cervix before connecting inside the umbilical cord, a condition called vasa previa. The cervix is the opening from which the baby exits the birth canal. When labor occurs, or even before, those vessels can burst and cause the mother and baby to hemorrhage. Velamentous cord insertion, with or without vasa previa, may cause miscarriage or stillbirth. As such, diagnosis of the condition before labor is critical. When diagnosed, an obstetrician can prepare for a necessary cesarean birth to avoid complications.
How Doctors Diagnose Abnormal Cord Insertion
Abnormal cord insertion appears during routine checkups or with vaginal bleeding concerns. When doctors suspect the problem from vaginal bleeding or a slowed fetal heart rate, they may use Doppler imaging to find abnormal cord insertion, vasa previa, or placenta previa. However, a physician typically uses ultrasound to explore the cervical area for obstructing blood vessels during routine checkups. A diligent doctor orders advanced technology scans, such as color Doppler, Power Doppler, Gray Scale, and 3D HD flow, to diagnose fetal cord blood vessel changes and to see the vessel blood flow when they suspect an abnormal insertion. Since abnormal cord insertion may be challenging to discover, these technologies may help to diagnose the condition.
Once detected, a physician documents the abnormal insertion site and watches for changes in checkups. Should a marginal insertion turn into a velamentous insertion, a physician must prepare for a cesarean delivery several weeks before the expected onset of labor.
Can You Obtain Compensation?
A missed diagnosis or failure to use the appropriate technology to detect an abnormal cord insertion could lead to disastrous results. An unprepared physician could face a life-and-death emergency, requiring them to act quickly to save the baby’s life with a blood transfusion and oxygen. Studies confirm that detecting velamentous cord insertion before labor yielded better outcomes than discovering the condition at birth. Thus, the burden is on a pregnant woman’s doctor to take all the appropriate steps to diagnose the condition. Otherwise, they may fail to prevent catastrophic injuries to the baby or mother.
Obstetricians are specialists trained to diagnose and treat all pregnancy and birth-related conditions, so they should not be the cause of injuries they could prevent. While irregular cord placement is not as common as other pregnancy conditions, it occurs often enough for educated and experienced obstetricians to know what to do to avoid harmful outcomes. Missing the signs and failing to identify abnormal cord insertion and associated conditions like vasa previa may mean a physician can be held liable for medical malpractice.
Likewise, medical history, tests, follow-ups, and monitoring help the medical professional to prepare for possible emergencies. Inadequately preparing for or managing a labor and delivery scenario involving abnormal cord insertion could be grounds for a lawsuit if the mother or her child suffered harm. These victims can and should explore their options to recover compensation for birth injuries resulting from medical negligence, and the unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on themselves and their families.
Who to Call for Birth Injury Legal Guidance
It is extremely important to seek legal advice if you or your baby suffered injuries related to velamentous cord insertion, marginal cord insertion, or another complication of an abnormally connected umbilical cord. Consult our attorneys with decades of investigation, preparation, and trial experience handling birth injury claims if you suspect your doctor was negligent in diagnosing and managing your abnormal cord insertion condition.
Our seasoned legal team can assist you with addressing all of your questions and concerns, and assessing your possible course of action to recover compensation. Contact us by calling 866-708-8617 or filling out the form below to request a free review of your case and consultation.