How Dangerous Is an Umbilical Cord around the Neck?

Article Details
  • Written By: Rebecca Mecomber
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
U.S. companies first sold energy drinks in the early 1900s; they contained radium, which causes radiation sickness.  more...

October 19 ,  1987 :  The Dow Jones experienced its second-largest percentage drop in history.  more...

A baby's umbilical cord gets looped around the neck, also called a nuchal cord, in roughly 25% of vaginal childbirth deliveries. While a terrifying thought to many parents, most umbilical cord complications do not affect the health of the baby nor the mother. When the baby's head has "crowned" and emerges from the birth canal, the medical professional routinely checks to see if the umbilical cord is around the neck. In most cases, the cord is loose enough to slip over the baby's head before the body of the baby is delivered. While complications do occur, most are extremely rare or easily resolved.

Fetal death from an umbilical cord around the neck is very rare, and may be caused by other complications. Cord stricture, in which the umbilical cord is knotted tightly enough to prevent oxygen and nutrients to the baby, may be caused by a deficiency in the protective jelly covering. Prenatal technology such as ultrasound are incapable of diagnosing such complications, and in such cases, the baby is stillborn. Cord stricture is responsible for an estimated 19% of fetal deaths.


In the rare cases where the cord is wrapped tightly around the neck or knotted, a doctor clamps the cord in two places and cuts the cord between the clamps. The baby should be delivered immediately, as it is no longer receiving oxygen once the umbilical cord is cut. In extreme cases, the baby is injured during the clamping or cutting procedure. Overall, removing an umbilical cord from around the neck is generally a standard and safe procedure.

The umbilical cord vein and artery are covered by a thick, jelly-like protective sheath called Wharton's jelly. This slippery sheath reduces friction and prevents the cord from becoming compressed, should it become entangled around the baby's neck or twisted into a knot. Obstetricians have created two types of classification for an umbilical cord around the neck. Type A is a cord wrapped around the infant's neck 360 degrees, while type B is a cord wrapped around the neck in a firm knot.

Some medical practitioners use Doppler ultrasound technology to detect a prenatal nuchal cord. While ultrasound may be a good indicator of umbilical cord issues, it is not an accurate predictor of a safe birth. Moreover, as the baby grows larger in the womb, he or she becomes more active, and the possibility of the cord getting wrapped around the neck increases. Doctors are trained to look for the cord during delivery.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 4

My last child was delivered vaginally and I had a natural birth plan except for inducing labor. I was age 33 and it was my 3rd baby. He was 9 pounds, 7 oz. and 22" so not a tiny baby at all, but he not only had the cord wrapped many times around his neck, it was around his forehead and chest as well. When the Dr. realized this, I had to push the baby out without the aid of contractions. I believe my cord was over 10 fee long as he kept folding and folding it before me. My baby was overall healthy, just a little choked with a weak voice from the pressure. The only warning I had

of this before birth was during the last few weeks of pregnancy, my baby periodically would twist his head back and forth against my colon and into my pelvis making things very uncomfortable to say the least. Looking back, I realize he was trying to free himself from the cord entanglements.

Be very glad the ultrasound has caught this in your pregnancy! With this knowledge and good professionals, your baby should come through any complications from this just fine! Good luck!

Post 3

My baby was had been in distress for several hours when I had to have an emergency c-section. The umbilical cord was almost entirely knotted. I think it's a miracle that she was born healthy.

Post 2

@literall45-- Every birth is different, so whether complications will arise in your situation or not, your doctor is the best to assess that.

But to give you an ease of mind, let me say that both of my kids were born with the umbilical cord around their neck. I had natural birth both times, and the doctors just pulled the cord from around their necks during delivery.

Like the article said, doctors are trained for this, so no one is going to panic if the baby is born like that. They will take care of it, so don't worry. I think the risk is higher before delivery. You still have some time though so hopefully the umbilical cord will unwind from the neck by itself before your delivery time.

Post 1

I'm seven months pregnant and I just found out during my last ultrasound that my baby has the umbilical cord around her neck. The doctor said that they will keep an eye on it and I might have to get a c-section if the baby is under stress. If all goes well though, I supposed to give natural birth and they will check for the umbilical cord during birth.

I'm very worried about all this. Has anyone had a baby with the umbilical cord around the neck in the womb? Were there complications before and during birth?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?