Nuchal Cord

Definition - What does Nuchal Cord mean?

Nuchal cord is a term used to refer to wrapping of the unborn baby's neck with the umbilical cord. The condition occurs in around one in 10 deliveries. Adverse outcomes are usually not observed with a nuchal cord; nevertheless, this subject is controversial. The umbilical cord can encircle the baby's neck entire neck, when it is called a "type A" nuchal cord, or the cord cannot be unwrapped and eventually becomes a true knot, and is called a "type B" pattern. The cord can be loose or tight.

FertilitySmarts explains Nuchal Cord

A nuchal cord may occur randomly or it could happen secondary to excessive fetal movements or a long umbilical cord. An ultrasound may aid in the diagnosis of a nuchal cord.

Whether or not a nuchal cord adversely affects the unborn baby, is a subject of debate. When present, complications can span across a wide range. These include:

  • Cord compression: This obstructs the blood flow to the baby, slows down the fetal heart rate, and lowers the APGAR score
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Neurodevelopmental abnormalities
  • Baby's demise due to deprivation of oxygen, nutrients, and blood - a condition known as birth asphyxia

The treatment depends on how loose or tight the cord is wrapped around the neck:

  1. If the cord is loose, the doctor will slip it over the head (cord reduction).
  2. If the cord is extremely tight to slip over the baby's body, but not constricted around the neck, it is slipped over the shoulders as the baby's body is born and the baby is delivered through the cord.
  3. If the cord is too tight to slip back over the shoulders, another maneuver, called as somersault maneuver may be employed.
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