Umbilical Cord Around Neck


The connection between the mother and the fetus is the umbilical cord, which is responsible for the development of the fetus. The umbilical cord is the blood source, and also provides oxygen supply to the baby as the fetus is not able to breathe on its own. The cord also supplies all the nutrients, calories, proteins, fats and vitamins to the fetus. It is also responsible for carrying the waste products and deoxygenated blood back to the mother’s body where the waste products are processed and excreted.

During pregnancy parents are worried about the umbilical cord around neck of the baby and cause problems during delivery. This happens very frequently, about in one third of all births. Since the baby moves around in the uterus, the cord does get wrapped around the neck.

Umbilical Cord Around Neck - How Do I Know?

Usually, the umbilical cord being wrapped around the neck of the baby is not diagnosed until the delivery of the baby and won't be predicted or suspected as well. Since it happens in almost 1/3rd of all deliveries, it is not a reason to worry.

Diagnosis of this condition prior to delivery is not very often done, as it can be done only by specialized color ultrasound machine. Even without the diagnosis, the chances of the umbilical cord around the neck causing damage to the baby are very rare.

Umbilical Cord Around Neck - Is It Dangerous?

Pregnant women worry about the umbilical cord getting wrapped around the baby’s neck, however, the condition does not cause problem in the babies. The cord around the neck does not restrict the oxygen supply in the baby because they get the oxygen from the cord but not the trachea.

During the delivery the doctor usually checks the presence of the cord around the neck by slipping a finger around the neck, once the head comes out. Even if the cord is present, it is loose and can be slipped over the head of the baby and removed before the delivery is completed.

Situation That Needs Attention

Sometimes it can happen that the cord gets stretched or compressed during labor and this will result in decreased blood and oxygen supply through the cord. This would also cause changes in the heart rate of the fetus and are called "variable decelerations". The heart rate would drop, but it will be monitored by fetal heart beat monitor during labor. This usually gets better as the labor progresses and the baby can be delivered normally. However, if the heart rate drops, cesarean section is required to deliver the baby.

If the doctors find that the umbilical cord is wrapped around the neck of the fetus before delivery, they check the level of the amniotic fluid in the uterus. Since it acts as a cushion, any decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid can cause problems like compression of the cord and also restrict movements of the fetus. However, this condition occurs rarely and the baby can be delivered without any harm with the help of C-section.

Umbilical Cord Around Neck - How to Prevent

There is no way that one can prevent the umbilical cord from wrapping around the neck of the fetus. The fetus moves a lot and the cord gets wrapped and unwrapped many times throughout the pregnancy. "Cord accidents" happen when the cord gets twisted too much around the baby, this incidents are very rare.

How to Deal With Umbilical Cord Stump

The umbilical cord is responsible for carrying blood, oxygen and nutrients to the fetus during pregnancy. After the birth, the baby does not need the cord, so it is clamped and then cut off. As a result, a short stump is left behind. Since it does not contain any pain-sensitive nerve fibers, it does not affect the baby or cause any discomfort.

The stump dries and drops off in a week to three weeks after birth and can leave behind a small wound which heals in a couple of days.

Take Care of Umbilical Cord Stump

  • Keep the cord clean. The cord stump can be cleaned with plain water if it becomes sticky or dirty. Holding a clean cloth around it will help in drying it or fanning it with a paper should help. Earlier people used to advise that it should be cleaned with alcohol after every diaper change. However, now it has been found that it heals faster when left alone.
  • Keep the cord dry. Exposing the cord stump to air will help in keeping the cord dry. Folding the front part of the diaper will help in keeping the stump exposed to air.
  • Use sponge when bathing. Initially giving sponge baths to the baby will help in healing and is a more practical option. Once the stump falls off, baby can be bathed in sink or baby tub.
  • Don't pull the cord. You should not pull on the stump to remove it, even though it is hanging on by a thread like connection. It should fall off on its own.

Signs of Infection

In normal condition, there is a presence of dried blood or crust near the stump of the cord. However, if your baby has fever or has the condition mentioned below near the umbilical cord, you should immediately contact your doctor:

  • Reddish or swollen appearance around the stump
  • Bleeding or presence of yellowish pus
  • Has a foul smelling discharge

Watch the video to get some advice from a doctor on umbilical cord around neck: