Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Childbirth Complications

Childbirth Complications

Umbilical Cord Prolapse

The umbilical cord is your baby's lifeline. Oxygen and other nutrients are passed from your system to your baby, through the placenta and the umbilical cord. Sometimes before or during labor, the umbilical cord can slip through the cervix, preceding the baby into the birth canal. It may even protrude from the vagina. This is dangerous because the umbilical cord can get blocked and stop blood flow through the cord. You will probably feel the cord in the birth canal and may see it if it protrudes from your vagina. This is an emergency situation. Call an ambulance to get you to the hospital.

Umbilical Cord Compression

Because the fetus moves a lot inside the uterus, the umbilical cord can get wrapped and unwrapped around the baby many times throughout the pregnancy. While there are "cord accidents" in which the cord gets twisted around and harms the baby, this is extremely rare and usually can't be prevented.

Sometimes the umbilical cord gets stretched and compressed during labor, leading to a brief decrease in the flow of blood within it. This can cause sudden, short drops in the fetal heart rate, called variable decelerations, which are usually picked up by monitors during labor. Cord compression happens in about one in 10 deliveries. In most cases, these changes are of no major concern and most babies quickly pass through this stage and the birth proceeds normally. But a cesarean section may be necessary if the heart rate worsens or the fetus shows other signs of distress, such as decrease of fetal blood pH or passing of the baby's first stool (meconium).

Causes and Treatments Failure to Progress (Prolonged Labor)

Failure to progress refers to labor that does not move as fast as it should. This could happen with a big baby, a baby that does not present normally or with a uterus that does not contract appropriately. But more often than not, no specific cause for "failure to progress" is found. If labor goes on too long, your doctor may give you intravenous fluids to help prevent you from getting dehydrated. If the uterus does not contract enough, he or she may give you oxytocin, a medicine that promotes stronger contractions. And if the cervix stops dilating despite strong contractions of the uterus, a cesarean section may be indicated.

Abnormal Presentation

Sometimes a placenta previa may cause an abnormal presentation. But many times the cause is not known. Towards the end of your third trimester, your doctor will check the presentation and position of your fetus by feeling your abdomen. If the fetus remains in breech presentation several weeks before the due date, your doctor may attempt to turn the baby into the correct position.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

Woman smiling as she reads pregnancy test
Slideshow
pregnant woman with salad
Quiz
 
pregnancy am i pregnant
Article
calendar and baby buggy
Tool
 

slideshow fetal development
Slideshow
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
Article
 
What Causes Bipolar
Video
Woman trying on dress in store
Slideshow
 

pregnant woman
Article
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
Video
 
healthtool pregnancy calendar
Tool
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
Video