Umbilical cord prolapse is a medical emergency. It happens when the cord slips through your uterus and into your vagina. It can put your baby at risk of serious injury or death.

If you experience a birth defect while in the hospital, you will be given immediate care and will be required to have an emergency caesarean section to save the baby.

If you see a baby in the hospital, call the emergency number.

Unexplained cord hernia is rare.

The umbilical cord contains three blood vessels that connect you and your baby. One vein carries food and oxygen from the placenta to your baby, and two arteries carry waste from your baby back to the placenta.

Sometimes the umbilical cord moves into the wrong place at the wrong time. That can cause events like umbilical cord prolapse. There are three types of umbilical cord prolapse:

  • Overt umbilical prolapse. The umbilical cord slips through your cervix and into your vagina after your membranes rupture and before your baby enters the birth canal.
  • Funic presentation. A loop of the umbilical cord moves into a position between your baby and the still-intact membranes.
  • Occult cord prolapse. The cord positions itself alongside your baby in the canal, but it’s not detectable by your doctor.

If the cord is pinched, your baby may not get enough oxygen and their heart rate may slow down. This could lead to disability or death.

Umbilical cord prolapse is rare. Research shows that it happens in about 1 to 6 births per 1,000.

The most common cause of prolapses is after the membranes have been damaged.

One study estimates that 57 percent of prolapses occur within 5 minutes after the membranes have ruptured, and 67 percent occur within 1 hour of their rupture.

If you are at home, the most common symptom of umbilical cord prolapse is feeling the cord in your vagina after your water has broken. If you think you can feel the cord, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

If you are at the hospital, your doctor or midwife can detect cord prolapse if they check you manually and feel the cord.

There is rarely cord prolapse. Several factors may contribute to the medical event, according to a literature review.

  • Atypical infant presentation (malpresentation). In one study, breech presentation accounted for 36.5 percent of deliveries in which prolapse occurred. Other malpresentations that may increase the risk of cord prolapse include transverse, oblique, and unstable lie.
  • Multiple babies. Twins or more may make it more likely that your baby lies in a way that could lead to prolapse.
  • Preterm labor. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), there’s more chance of prolapse if your membranes rupture prematurely and your baby is born at less than 37 weeks. But it’s important to note that umbilical cord prolapse occurs most often in term pregnancies.
  • Low birth weight. A smaller baby increases the chance of prolapse.
  • Polyhydramnios. Too much amniotic fluid can lead to prolapse.

The 2018 review points out that nearly 50 percent of umbilical cord prolapse incidents can be attributable to medical procedures such as amniotomy – when a healthcare professional ruptures the amniotic sac during labor. You may want to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about this when discussing your delivery plan.

If you are at the hospital, your doctor may diagnose a cord that is not fully formed after seeing it or feeling it.

An abnormal fetal heartbeat is a symptom of a prolapsed cord. The cord may be pinched or squeezed between the walls of the birth canal.

This pinching can lead to a lack of oxygen and a heartbeat that changes suddenly and recurrently. The 2018 review mentioned previously notes that in 67 percent of cases, these changes in your baby’s heartbeat may be the first sign of occult cord prolapse.

“It is possible to save your baby’s life with an early diagnosis.”

If you think you have a problem with the umbilical cord, you should go to the hospital or call your local emergency number. You can take some pressure off the cord by getting on your knees and hands.

When traveling by car or ambulance, change positions. Lie on your back and keep your hips elevated, use what is known as an exaggerated Sim’s position. Lie on your side, rolled forward toward your stomach with your chest down and your left leg bent and elevated with a pillow. Ask your doctor or healthcare professional about these positions.

If you are at the hospital, your doctor will deliver your baby by caesarean section. In rare cases, your doctor will guide you through the delivery if it seems that it will be quicker.

Your doctor may try to take pressure off the cord while you are being prepared for surgery.

  • You can insert two fingers into the vagina and manually raise the part of the baby that is pressing on the cord.
  • You should fill your bladder with 500– 700cc of saline.

“You can’t prevent or predict cord prolapse. Unexplained cord hernia is a medical emergency.”

The outlook for pregnant women with cord palsy depends on a number of factors, including the age and birth weight of the baby.

According to research, the mortality rate of an umbilical cord prolapse happening outside the hospital is quite high, but if it happens in the hospital, the rate drops to 3 percent.

Babies with a low birth weight are more likely to die from umbilical cord prolapse than babies with a high birth weight.

If you have umbilical cord prolapse, your baby may have a low 5-minute Apgar score. The neonatal team will assess your baby after birth and administer resuscitation, which may include oxygen, chest compressions, or intubation.

There is a rare emergency that occurs during the birth of a baby. It is not possible to prevent an umbilical cord prolapse, but knowing what to expect and knowing what to do can make it easier for you in the rare event that it does happen.