Causes Of Long Umbilical Cord: Complications And Treatment

The umbilical cord is like a tube connecting the fetus and placenta. In fact it is considered to be the main supply line for the fetus. The two arteries and one vein of umbilical cord carry blood back and forth from baby to placenta and vice versa. The cord also acts as a delivery channel of nutrients and oxygen to the baby. The length of cord is very important as it has an influence on the overall development of the fetus.

Normal length of umbilical cord is approximately 55cm. Umbilical cord is said to be long if its length is more than 80 cm.

Long umbilical cord can lead to complications such as torsion of the cord, excessive knotting, entanglement of fetus, and prolapsed of the cord.

Exact cause of long umbilical cord is not known. Certain risk factors include smoking, alcohol intake during pregnancy and maternal diabetes. Long umbilical cord is diagnosed prenatally with the help of sonogram test. There is no specific treatment, but often cesarean section is preferred mode of delivery to prevent complications.

Cause And Risk Factors Of Long Umbilical Cord

The exact cause of long umbilical cord still remains uncertain. Some studies indicate a single pregnancy has higher incidence of long umbilical cord than twin pregnancy.

It has also been found that there is an increased rate of meconium staining with long umbilical cord.

Long umbilical cord can occur in pregnant women of all ages. At least 7 percent of pregnancies are known to have this type of cord abnormality. It can develop in pregnant women of any race and geographic location. But certain risk factors have been known to be associated with long umbilical cord. These risk factors are:

  • Obese pregnant women.
  • Large sized fetus.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Mother suffering from diabetes during pregnancy.

Complications Of Long Umbilical Cord

The complications of a long umbilical cord are as follows:

  • The abnormally long cord can cause entanglement of the fetus.
  • Long umbilical cord has increased chances of getting compressed. As a result blood flow to the fetus can be hampered.
  • There is increased risk of accumulation of amniotic fluid in the amniotic sac.
  • Long cord has always increased incidences of fetal distress
  • Increased chances of preterm delivery.
  • Knotting around different parts of the body. If the cord knots around the neck of fetus and causes choking, it can increase the risk of fetal mortality and stillbirth.
  • Reduced oxygen supply due to compression of cord can cause fetal brain damage.
  • Intra uterine growth retardation

Treatment Of Long Umbilical Cord

Long umbilical cord is detected prenatally with the help of ultrasound scan. Careful examination of placenta after birth can establish the diagnosis definitely. There is no specialized treatment for long umbilical cord. The doctor carefully monitors the patient during pregnancy and at the time of labor for an optimal outcome.

If the diagnosis is done prenatally, doctors often recommend elective cesarean section to prevent complications such as prolapsed cord etc during the time of labor. Even if the diagnosis is done at the time of labor, emergency cesarean section is often selected as the mode of delivery. If fetal distress is noted, the child may need to be immediately delivered.