The Dangers of True Knots in the Umbilical Cord

The Dangers of True Knots in the Umbilical Cord

by / Monday, 30 August 2021 / Published in Birth Trauma
Newborn baby laying on its back in a hospital bed.

For babies still in the womb, the umbilical cord is literally a lifeline, providing oxygen and nutrients that the child needs to grow. If there are any complications with the umbilical cord, it can potentially result in those vital nutrients being restricted. Umbilical cord complications can take many different forms, including nuchal cords, umbilical cord prolapse, and umbilical cord knots. 

What Causes Umbilical Cord Knots? Can They be Prevented?

Umbilical cord knots are often caused by the baby simply moving around, so they’re not something that can be prevented. Nor is there anything doctors can do to treat them when they do occur. And the good news is that in most cases, these knots remain loose enough to be nothing to be concerned about. However, it is possible for knots to become so tight that they interfere with the oxygen and nutrients the baby receives through the umbilical cord, which is known as a true knot. 

Detecting Umbilical Cord Knots

Even though umbilical cord knots aren’t something that can be prevented or treated, doctors can look for them through ultrasounds and monitor the baby to make sure there aren’t signs of knots causing problems. Umbilical cord knots can be detected through ultrasounds, but it’s not always the most reliable way to check for them since knots can easily be hidden by the baby during scans. Doctors should also be monitoring the baby’s heart rate to make sure there aren’t any significant changes and that the baby is still growing as expected. Changes with either of those can be signs of a knot. In some cases, a decrease in fetal movement can also be a sign of a true knot.

Risk Factors for Umbilical Cord Knots

Umbilical cord knots can easily happen in any pregnancy, but there are certain risk factors which can make them more likely to occur:

  • The baby is smaller than average
  • The umbilical cord is longer than average
  • The mother has high levels of amniotic fluid
  • You are carrying twins and the babies are sharing an amniotic sac
  • The mother having two or more previous pregnancies
  • Advanced maternal age

When these factors are present, it’s particularly important for doctors to be watching for umbilical cord knots and any complications they can cause. 

Effects of Umbilical Cord Knots

While most umbilical cord knots don’t become tight enough to cause serious complications, the ones that are can potentially result in a wide range of problems related to a lack of oxygen. Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), for example, is a type of brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen which can result in problems like seizures, poor muscle tone, problems with feeding, difficulties with breathing, and problems with reflexes. In the most extreme cases, a true knot can lead to stillbirth caused by asphyxia. 

Contact a Michigan Birth Trauma Lawyer

Even when birth complications can’t be prevented, it’s up to medical professionals to handle the situation appropriately to prevent harm to the child. The longer an issue that limits a child’s oxygen supply lasts, the more severe the injuries can be. If your child was injured by an umbilical cord knot or any other oxygen-related complication, don’t hesitate to contact a birth trauma lawyer. Goodwin & Scieszka has helped many people just like you whose families have been impacted by birth injuries. Contact us today for help with your case.

Credit: iStock / Orbon Alija