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Proper care of umbilical cord can prevent birth injuries

Most California parents know that the umbilical cord provides life-sustaining oxygen to a baby during pregnancy and is a critical element of a healthy baby's survival. Failure to properly care for a baby's umbilical cord can lead to compression of the cord and can have traumatic results for an infant during childbirth.

Before birth, babies obtain oxygen from a mother's blood stream which flows from the placenta and into the umbilical cord. In the umbilical cord, two veins carry oxygenated blood to the baby, allowing it to grow and survive. If the umbilical cord becomes compressed or otherwise damaged, the oxygenated blood cannot flow freely to the baby.

If a baby's oxygen is compromised and reduced, a serious brain injury may result for a newborn. A lack of oxygenated blood may mean that a baby's organs are not gaining access to nutrients, including glucose, that are essential for the baby to grow and function. Without proper oxygen levels, a baby's neurons may die, releasing their contents into the baby's brain and thereby resulting in brain injury.

In a cord prolapse, a portion of the umbilical cord emerges from a mother's cervix so that it is in front of the baby's head. This emergency situation requires a medical professional to manually hold the baby's head off of the cord and will necessitate an emergency caesarean section delivery. An occult umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the cord cannot be visibly seen. Doctors must identify this situation via information obtained from fetal heart monitor strips. Either of these situations may prevent necessary oxygen from reaching a baby.

It is imperative that mothers and babies obtain competent medical care to prevent any injuries that might result from a damaged umbilical cord. If a physician's negligence results in a birth injury, the parents can bring a medical malpractice claim on behalf of the child.

Source: birthinjury.org, "Labor & Delivery Causes," accessed Sept. 13, 2015

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