Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). This is a type of brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow to the brain before or during labor. Babies who experience HIE during birth have a higher risk of developing certain disorders such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, severe hearing and vision impairment, and motor and behavioral difficulties.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This can happen if there are blood flow problems in the umbilical cord. IUGR refers to a baby’s abnormal growth (they are too small for their gestational age) while in the mother’s womb.
Meconium aspiration syndrome. When lacking oxygen, a fetus is forced to breathe deeper. This can lead to the aspiration of amniotic fluid containing meconium or “newborn poop.” Meconium aspiration syndrome is treatable but can result in severe complications like pneumonia, pneumothorax, and brain damage.
Fetal acidosis. This is when the acidity levels of the fetus’ blood rise to dangerous levels. Fetal acidosis is a very serious complication that can lead to brain damage and even death.
Neurodevelopmental abnormalities. A tight cord coil can restrict the flow of blood in the fetus’ brain. This may result in neurodevelopmental abnormalities such as ADHD, autism, Tourette’s syndrome, and developmental coordination disorder.
Stillbirth. This is considered a very rare occurrence, and can take place during the first or second trimester of pregnancy.
How is cord coil diagnosed and treated?
The only way to diagnose a nuchal cord or cord coil is via ultrasound. However, the ultrasound can only show if there are entanglements; it cannot help the doctors determine if the baby is at risk of any complications.
Sometimes, a cord coil can unravel itself while the baby is still inside the womb. Likewise, the baby can free itself of a cord coil through fetal movements.
In cases where the cord cannot untangle itself, the doctor will be the one to manually slip off the cord from the baby’s neck during delivery. If the baby is showing signs of oxygen deprivation, the attending physician will perform resuscitation to help lower the baby’s risk of brain damage.
Any injuries to, in, or with the umbilical cord can be a cause for concern. However, the majority of nuchal cord occurrences aren’t risky. You and the doctors would only know if there’s a possibility of cord coil complications during the baby’s delivery.
There is nothing parents can do to prevent a nuchal cord. If you are diagnosed with a cord coil during your pregnancy, the best thing to do is to stay calm and consult your doctor.
Learn more about pregnancy and birthing complications, here.