Signs Of Umbilical Cord Problems
The umbilicus — the belly button, as it’s commonly called — can be a source of anxiety for expectant mothers. For one thing, it often marks the spot where you’ll find your baby. But while most women get excited about meeting their little bundle of joy in person, they’re also worried that something might go wrong during labor. And when it does, there are some telltale warning signs to look out for.
Umbilical cord prolapse is the least common type of birth defect but the leading cause of death among babies born prematurely. In this condition, the umbilical cord comes out before the baby has been delivered from the womb. It usually occurs with first-time moms who have given birth vaginally, so if you had C-sections previously, you may not need worry. The problem is typically treatable with surgery, which is performed by a pediatric surgeon once the placenta is delivered.
While all types of births carry risks, umbilical cord abnormalities present special concerns because they occur at such an early stage in pregnancy. Not only do they affect how long a pregnancy will last, but they also increase the chance of stillbirth. Babies with umbilical cord issues tend to weigh less than average and are more likely to die within the first few days of life. So if you notice any unusual symptoms during your checkup, make sure you let your doctor know immediately. Otherwise, keep reading to learn what the most common symptoms of umbilical cord problems are.
An Irregular Fetal Heartbeat
One of the most obvious signs of umbilical cord problems is an abnormal heart rate. If the fetus’ heart rate appears uneven or erratic, call 911 right away. This could indicate an infection in the uterus (such as uterine contractions) or other complications. A fast heart rate indicates high oxygen demand on the part of the unborn child and may mean that blood flow to the baby isn’t getting enough oxygen. Some doctors recommend performing immediate Caesarean section (C-section) if the fetal heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute.
Decreased Or Low Fetal Movement
Milder cases of umbilical cord problems include a decrease in fetal movement, or “non-stress test” results showing poor contraction patterns. While these signals don’t necessarily require medical intervention, they should alert you to consult your doctor. Abnormal non-stress test results are associated with placental abruption, a separation between the mother’s uterine wall and the outer layer of the placenta. Placental abruption is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment because it increases the risk of premature delivery and neonatal death. Other causes of low fetal movement include amniotic fluid leakage, preeclampsia and infections like chorioamnionitis.
Treatment for umbilical cord problems depends on which specific abnormality you detect. Generally, the best way to handle them is through prenatal care and monitoring. Your physician will want to perform tests to rule out underlying conditions and take steps to ensure proper weight gain and nutrition.
There are several treatments options available should you experience an umbilical cord problem. Most involve medications or surgical interventions. Let’s start with the most common option: medication.
If you suspect that the cause of your baby’s slow growth is due to a hormone imbalance, your doctor may prescribe methotrexate. Methotrexate works by interfering with cell division. Because it affects cells that divide quickly, it helps stop rapid tissue growth — especially in fetuses experiencing lung development problems — without harming mature tissues. However, its effectiveness varies according to each patient’s unique situation, and side effects including joint pain, nausea and diarrhea may develop.
Another popular drug used to treat umbilical cord problems is misoprostol. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin E1 analogue that causes the cervix to dilate and allows for easier passage of the baby through the birth canal. While it doesn’t work alone, it’s frequently prescribed along with oxytocin and/or nifedipine to help bring the baby into the world. Nifedipine relaxes smooth muscle fibers throughout the body and promotes vasodilation (the widening of arteries), helping the placenta deliver faster. Oxytocin, another powerful medicine, stimulates uterine contractions and helps soften the cervix.
Surgical procedures are also used to treat umbilical cord problems. One operation involves placing a small balloon inside the uterus near the cervix. Once inflated, the balloon blocks off the cervix, keeping it closed until the baby is ready to emerge. Another procedure uses a catheter inserted through the vagina to block off the cervix. When the catheter is removed, the baby makes his or her appearance. Both operations are considered relatively safe, although potential complications can arise such as bleeding, infection and damage to surrounding organs.
As you’ve learned, umbilical cord problems aren’t always easy to recognize. Keep reading for more information about this important topic.
In recent years, research has shown that certain environmental factors play a role in causing preterm birth. Tobacco smoke and air pollution, for example, both create higher levels of free radicals that attack healthy cells. These pollutants pose particular danger to pregnant women since they travel deeper into the lungs than regular cigarette smoke. To reduce risk, limit exposure to tobacco products and avoid smoggy cities. Also, stay informed about local weather forecasts; heavy rainstorms and lightning strikes can trigger thunderous downpours that lead to flooding and power loss. As a result, many hospitals now offer mobile clinics in affected areas.
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