For many pregnancies where umbilical cord anomalies are present, the outcome is positive and most people never know that there could have been an issue. For a few, though, cord accidents lead to Sudden Antenatal Death Syndrome (SADS), or stillbirth. Conventional wisdom used to suggest that stillbirths had a very low recurrence per mother. New studies are revealing that subsequent pregnancies following fetal demise due to a cord accident have a 1 in 7 chance of ending with the same tragedy.
When stillbirths are caused by umbilical cord accidents (UCAs), there is rarely anything else wrong with the baby. There may be an excessively long cord, but not all UCAs reveal specific evidence in the cord itself. When evidence is present, it may be as a true knot, a nuchal cluster, a nuchal loop, torsion, or specific anomalies in the substance of the cord itself including extreme shortness, length, thinness, or thickness, or even lesions.
The Pregnancy Institute’s Case Studies
Dr. Jason Collins of the Pregnancy Institute in Louisiana has spent the last twenty years studying SADS in relation to umbilical cord anomalies, and he has collected a compelling amount of evidence concerning the true nature of UCAs, including an outline of high-risk indicators that women can share with their doctors to assess UCA risk more completely.
One of the correlations that Dr. Collins observed was that stillbirths do not happen suddenly. There is a distinct pattern of fetal behavior that can be tracked beforehand both by a mother on her own and with her doctor’s assistance. If warning signs are observed, the pregnancy should be considered high risk and should be attended only in a hospital environment.
Risks and Behaviors
A primary risk is a family history of cord anomalies and stillbirths. Having already experienced a stillbirth due to UCA is nearly self-evident, but oftentimes previous births may have had long cords or perhaps a previous generation suffered a number of stillbirths that, at the time, had no explanation. There appears to be no correlation, however, to the age of the mother, the number of births she has had, or her ethnic background.
A secondary risk factor is maternal low blood pressure. When the mother’s heart does not pump blood at a sufficient power, it is difficult for a cord that is being compressed or blocked in any way to remain open for the baby to receive nutrients. Of special concern is if the mother’s blood pressure drops significantly between the hours of 2 and 5 in the morning. Mammals rest the deepest during this period of the night, and fetal demise occurs most commonly during this time.
Pay attention to fetal movements in the evening, and report any hyperactivity to your physician immediately. Make a note if the baby has more than 10 to 15 hiccups in the course of ten minutes. Both of these behaviors are indicative of cord compression wherein the baby is pressing against a cluster or knot in the cord and reducing his own nutrients.
If you are assessed as having a significant risk, talk to your doctor or to the Pregnancy Institute directly about receiving a Home Fetal Monitor. With this device, you can track the baby’s heart rate for a period of time in the evening when most of the significant danger signs will be present. If these danger signs are detected, contact your physician immediately and go to the hospital.
Knowing your true risk and being proactive about your condition can significantly increase your chances of having a happy, healthy baby.