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December 20, 2010

Low APGAR Score At Birth May Be Due To Umbilical Cord Compression: New York Birth Injury Lawyer Explains Mechanics

The umbilical cord connects an unborn fetus to the placenta. It typically contains two arteries and one vein, encased in a durable substance known as Wharton's Jelly. Most umbilical cords measure 20 inches in length, nearly 1 inch thick and may have as many as 380 helices (i.e., coils).

"The primary purpose of the umbilical cord is to deliver oxygen-rich blood and nutrients to the fetus, and to remove waste," said Syracuse birth injury lawyer Michael A. Bottar, Esq., of Bottar Leone, PLLC. Where there is umbilical cord compression during labor and delivery, an unborn baby may receive inadequate oxygen (hypoxia) or no oxygen (asphyxia). Hypoxia and asphyxia are associated with birth injuries such as cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness.

Umbilical cord compression is very common. It occurs in 10% of deliveries when, in most cases, the cord is compressed between a baby's head and the mother's pelvic bone. The umbilical cord may also be compressed if it becomes wrapped around a baby's neck, as discussed in a prior blog post titled Umbilical Cord Around Baby's Neck Is A Common Cause of Syracuse New York Birth Injury. This is known as a nuchal cord.

Fortunately, umbilical cord compression can be identified by review of fetal heart monitor tracings. In the usual case, periods of low fetal oxygenation will be marked by an increase (accelerations) or decrease (decelerations) in the fetal heart rate. Obstetricians and labor and delivery nurses can then take steps to remedy the problem by, e.g., repositioning the mother or administering oxygen. Where a baby experiences prolonged hypoxia s/he may be born depressed, with low APGAR scores discussed in a prior post titled Low APGAR Scores and Medical Malpractice In Syracuse New York. A baby born with low APGAR scores is at risk for developmental delays.

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