Short Umbilical Cord: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment, Complications, Prevention, Prognosis

About Short Umbilical Cord

For those who are unaware of certain facts, umbilical cords in pregnancy are accountable for channelizing oxygen, blood and nutrients in a fetus’s body along with removing away the waste disposal. The moment a baby starts moving around, it creates tension on the umbilical cord thus promoting positive growth and leading to lengthening of the umbilical cord. When the umbilical cord is too short, this could be a clear sign that the baby is not moving around satisfactorily, thus hinting at the deteriorating health of the fetus. Short umbilical cord also signals risks impending delivery complications and birth injuries. Among all probable Umbilical Cord abnormalities, Short Umbilical Cord is a major one, as it may squeeze the baby’s neck by wrapping around it. Turning into a prolapsed cord, Umbilical Cord may develop knots and dangle before the baby. Through ultrasound specialists can conduct detailed assessment and position of the umbilical cord. If an issue is traced, close monitoring is required for the sake of both mother and child and by conducting some prenatal tests, things can actually settle down. However, the probable most horrible complication, which may put the mother and baby into big risk, is placental abruption where the umbilical cord is pulled due to the baby’s movement thus provoking the placenta to be pulled thus resulting in severe bleeding. When this happens, the woman not only needs immediate attention but also rapid C-section to avert serious complications like rigorous oxygen deprivation and impending brain damage to the fetus.

Short Umbilical Cord

Probable Causes of Short Umbilical Cord

All across the world nearly 6% of women have short umbilical cord. There is no age specification and any woman may have a short umbilical cord. There could be some hereditary issues and there could be some causes, which often remain unknown. Now the question occurs, why short umbilical cord develops. When pregnant women are having comparatively low body weight, umbilical cord may become short. However, in the following cases, umbilical cord can be short in length:

  • The moment a woman becomes pregnant for the first time.
  • When the potential mother has a history of consuming alcohol during pregnancy then it can lead to short umbilical cord.
  • Not only drinking, when woman has a tendency to smoke, nicotine may cut short the growth of the umbilical cord.
  • Few health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure create complication and restrict the umbilical cord to develop.
  • Few chromosomal abnormalities are there that also cause abnormal development of Umbilical Cord. Down’s syndrome is one of those abnormalities.
  • According to a survey, female fetuses are at a higher risk for developing abnormalities in Umbilical Cord; however, this is not a proven fact.
  • If in early pregnancy amniocentesis is performed then the chances of short umbilical cord increases.
  • When the fetal growth is comparatively short, as per its gestational age.
  • When the amount of fluid is excessive in the amniotic sac, Umbilical Cord could be short.

What are the Symptoms & Risk Factors Connected to Short Umbilical Cord?

During the 8th week of pregnancy umbilical cord becomes visible, then from time to time, ultrasound analysis of umbilical cord in third and fourth trimester discloses the actual condition of the Umbilical Cord. When the Umbilical Cord is short, it restricts the blood circulation and the fetus never gets the amount of nutrition and oxygen that it deserves. It may cause fetal distress and the distress can be seen through fetal heart rate monitor. Here the mother as well as the fetus both can be affected, with shortened cord, number of complications may arise, some of which could be highly dangerous in sustaining the fetus’s life.

Among the symptoms there could be non-reassuring fetal heart rate resulting from with umbilical cord firmness, fetal activity confusion such as fetal immobility, placental abruption, oligohydramnios, rupture of the umbilical cord and neurological disabilities.

Complications of Short Umbilical Cord

Among all complications and risks, placental abruption is one of the severe complications where the moving fetus may tug the placenta from its place on the uterine wall. Such incident may provoke terrible bleeding, which may reduce adequate oxygen supply along with nutrition supply to the fetus.

  • Another terrible risk factor is intrauterine growth retardation because of inadequate supply of nutrients and oxygen.
  • Sudden unprecedented split of umbilical cord.
  • Greater than before likelihood of miscarriage.
  • With short umbilical cord, labor is long-drawn-out.
  • Short umbilical cord provokes uterine inversion.
  • The baby may suffer due to Short Umbilical Cord with incurable brain damage.
  • Among the complications the first and foremost is delivery intricacies and birth injuries.
  • Then there could be varying other complications, such as umbilical vessel hematomas, operative deliveries thrombosis, cord compression, rupture, thrombocytopenia, variable fetal heart rate decelerations and fetal termination.
  • The baby may suffer from cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, intrauterine growth retardation, placental disruption, affecting the nutrition of the developing fetus, umbilical cord rupture, increased incidence of breech presentation, miscarriages and stillbirths.
  • The prospective mother may suffer from increased incidence of retained placenta, prolonged labor, inversion of the uterus, abruption of placenta causing severe bleeding.

How to Diagnose Short Umbilical Cord?

Among varying testing methods, sonography is the best credible diagnostic tool that unveils the condition. Along with anatomy of the fetus ultrasound also reveals the condition of short umbilical cord. Fetal surveillance is actually needed for its safety and proper development. Prenatal diagnosis, systematic review of the literature, physical examination, prenatal ultrasound scan corroborates how the umbilical cord is presently behaving. Ultrasound gives a clear vivid picture of the umbilical cord.

Probable Treatment Options for Short Umbilical Cord

Unfortunately there is no explicit treatment explored till date that helps in overcoming situations like short umbilical cord. However, there are few therapeutic measures discovered which help in improving the chances by and large of fetal well being.

When the condition is discovered in prenatal stage, one may decide on safe cesarean section for protected and secured prognosis.

When the condition is discovered at some point in childbirth process then forceps delivery is recommended or if needed, vacuum delivery procedure can be performed. Short umbilical cord cannot be repaired with medication, but its risks can be managed and handled by avoiding alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking during pregnancy.

When a pregnant woman is found out to be diabetic then controlling blood sugar may save one from undergoing traumas that undersize the umbilical cord causes.

How to Prevent a Short Umbilical Cord?

  • Some studies point toward non-smoking and non-alcohol consumption during pregnancy that prevents a short umbilical cord.
  • Getting diabetic during pregnancy is not rare, controlling diabetes cuts short the risk of short umbilical cord.
  • Careful monitoring of the umbilical cord shows the short length of the umbilical cord so careful monitoring of fetal heart rate is indispensable.

Prognosis of Short Umbilical Cord

Depending upon on different factors, prognosis of Short Umbilical Cord is made. The development of the fetus matters most along with the health condition of the mother. For all the complications, risks and reasons discussed above, Short Umbilical Cord is concluded as high-risk pregnancy that needs close monitoring and careful observation. As multiple complications are likely to develop, so prognosis often turns poor in this case.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 13, 2018

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