Umbilical Cord Prolapse
How to Say It: um-BILL-ick-ul cord PRO-lapse
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
The umbilical cord is a wrapped bundle of blood vessels. It joins a fetus to the mother's placenta. The placenta is an organ that supplies blood and oxygen to the fetus throughout the pregnancy.
Umbilical cord prolapse is problem that can happen during labor. The cord becomes trapped in the birth canal, in front of the baby's head. The pressure on the cord can slow or stop the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby.
Umbilical cord prolapse will most often happen after water has broken. The prolapse is simply caused by the position of the cord.
Things may raise the risk include:
An umbilical prolapse will cause a change in the baby’s heart rate during labor. The cord may also be visible after water has broken.
A prolapse is diagnosed if the cord is seen or felt in the birth canal. It may be checked if there is a concern with the baby's heart rate.
Umbilical cord prolapse is an emergency. It is treated by:
There are no known guidelines to prevent this problem.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). Umbilical cord prolapse. Green-top Guideline No. 50. RCOG 2014.
Umbilical cord prolapse. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/umbilical-cord-prolapse. Accessed October 19, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 4/28/2021