What Causes Umbilical Cord Varix? Symptoms And Complications

Umbilical cord varix is dilatation of umbilical vein inside the umbilical cord. An enlarged blood vessel in medical terminology may be referred as varix. Fetal umbilical cord consists of two umbilical arteries and one vein.

Umbilical cord during pregnancy is the only connection between the fetus and mother. The main function of cord is to supply oxygen, blood and nutrients from mother to the fetus. In fact it is the life line for the fetus. One end of the cord is attached to the placenta adhered to the uterine wall and other end of cord is attached to the fetal abdomen.

Umbilical cord varix is a rare anomaly with no distinct etiology or risk factor. It does not produce any symptoms, but may lead to complications such as stillbirth and spontaneous termination of pregnancy. The condition is detected on sonogram. There is no specific treatment but to avoid complications doctors usually suggest elective delivery.

What Causes Umbilical Vein Varix?

Umbilical cord varix is a rare type of malformation that develops in the umbilical cord. Almost 4 percent of umbilical cord abnormalities are cord varix. The condition is an anomaly occurring in the vein of umbilical cord.

The condition is characterized by abnormal enlargement of the umbilical vein.

There is no known certainty for the underlying cause of this abnormality. But it is believed to be a developmental malformation rather than a genetic defect because the condition is observed on sonogram after few months of pregnancy.

Pregnant women of all ages can be affected by this condition. There is no link established with any activity of the mother during or before pregnancy.

Symptoms Of Umbilical Cord Varix

There are no specific signs and symptoms of umbilical cord varix in either the pregnant woman or in the fetus. Normally the linear diameter of umbilical vein reaches to 8 mm at the end of nine months. Anything exceeding 9 mm is considered to be strict criteria for defining umbilical cord varix. This helps in diagnosis of the condition.

Although there is no symptom, in certain cases it may lead to developmental issues due to improper blood flow from mother to the fetus. Fetal distress can be observed in some due to compression of other blood vessel within the umbilical cord. The fetal heart sound may not be well appreciated due to this problem.

Diagnosis And Complications Of Umbilical Cord Varix

Diagnosis of umbilical cord varix is possible with the help of following:

  • Correct medical history of the pregnant woman and physical examination.
  • Checking for sign of fetal distress.
  • Sonogram is the main test done prenatally which may show an abnormal dilated umbilical cord vein.
  • To confirm the abnormality Doppler ultrasound will confirm the diagnosis.
  • After delivery examination of placenta will also reveal umbilical cord varix.

Following are the complications that may develop due to umbilical cord varix:

  • Stillbirth because of rupture of the umbilical vein.
  • Enlarged umbilical vein can put pressure on other blood vessels of the umbilical cord. This may affect blood circulation to the fetus from the placenta leading to fetal distress.
  • One of the causes of intrauterine growth retardation is umbilical cord varix.
  • Some babies soon after birth may develop difficulty in respiration.

Management Of Umbilical Vein Varix

There is no specific treatment for umbilical cord varix. However, when the condition is established, careful regular monitoring is required to reduce the risk of complication. In case of complication arising from the condition, the doctor may recommend elective cesarean section, especially to reduce the risk of fetal distress.

Umbilical cord varix is a high risk pregnancy hence the pregnant woman must frequently visit the doctor for overall well being of the fetus. There is no preventive therapy that may prevent occurrence of umbilical cord varix. Good prognosis is expected if the condition is detected early in the pregnancy.