Umbilical cord accidents are the stuff of which nightmares are made. Occurring in otherwise textbook pregnancies, they result in the deaths of one in every thousand babies. The mortality rate is noteworthy enough -- twice as many babies die from cord accidents as from SIDS -- but it only tells part of the story. Another three in every thousand babies are left severely disabled as a result of cord accidents.
While the majority of medical doctors continue to believe that it is impossible to predict or manage cord problems prenatally, the results of a ten-year long study by a Louisiana-based researcher and obstetrician challenge the conventional wisdom.
Dr Jason Collins of the Pregnancy Institute studied over 1000 pregnancies in an attempt to gather as much information as possible about umbilical cord accidents. By using ultrasounds and external fetal monitors, he was able to determine that cords around the neck that are formed when the fetus slips its head through a loop in the cord are more likely to result in injury or death than ones that are formed when the cord crosses over itself. He also discovered that pregnancies in which the placenta is situated to the posterior are more susceptible to cord accidents than ones in which the placenta is located elsewhere; and that more than three episodes of fetal hiccupping per day in late pregnancy may be indicative of a disruption in cord flow to the baby.
His most dramatic finding, however, concerned the timing of umbilical cord accidents. After interviewing more than fifty women who had experienced such accidents, Collins concluded that pregnant women are at greatest risk of experiencing a cord accident when they are sleeping and their blood pressure is at its lowest.
Collins believes that the careful monitoring of pregnant women in an effort to avoid cord accidents is "a missing piece that should be a part of prenatal care" and that the strategic use of ultrasound technology and fetal monitoring equipment could enable doctors to dramatically reduce the incidence of cord accidents.
The heartbreak that he witnessed ten years ago when he first had a patient lose a baby to a cord accident is reason enough for the medical profession to pay attention to cord accidents, he insists.
"There is a problem here that we've ignored and we can't ignore anymore.