The Causes & Effects of True Knots in the Umbilical Cord | Scott Goodwin Law

The Causes & Effects of True Knots in the Umbilical Cord

by / Wednesday, 24 May 2023 / Published in Birth Trauma, Medical Malpractice
A mother wearing a hospital gown holds and looks at her baby.

For an unborn baby, the umbilical cord is an essential connection to the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. If that knot becomes too tight and restrictive, it can potentially pose a serious risk to the baby. A true knot is a type of umbilical cord knot that occurs when the cord gets tangled and forms a knot, similar to what you might see in a piece of string or in any other type of cord.

What Causes True Knots?

It’s not always clear what causes a true knot. Very often, they can occur without any discernible cause or are simply caused by the baby moving around. However, there are some known risk factors for one occurring, including: 

  • A longer than average umbilical cord
  • Carrying twins that share an amniotic sac
  • A high level of amniotic fluid
  • The baby is small for its gestational age
  • The mother being over the age of 35
  • Two or more previous pregnancies

While it’s not always easy to tell what causes a true knot, doctors need to monitor patients for signs that one could be present. True knots are rare, occurring in approximately 1% of all pregnancies. But if one exists, it’s important for the situation to be handled appropriately to reduce the risk of injury.

Potential Complications of True Knots

Since true knots can restrict the flow of oxygen to the baby, the tighter the knot is, the more likely it is that they can cause serious harm. A small, loose knot may not result in serious long-term complications, but tighter knots can cause problems such as developmental delays, seizures, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) cerebral palsy, and other types of brain injuries. In extreme, but rare, cases, a true knot can result in stillbirth. 

Detecting & Addressing True Knots

It’s not always easy for true knots to be detected by ultrasound during pregnancy. They don’t always show clearly on an ultrasound and in some cases, there may be “false knots,” which resemble a true knot but aren’t really a knot. Very often, a true knot isn’t detected until labor/delivery. 

However, an ultrasound should be done if there are signs of changes in the baby’s movement or heart rate and if there are other known risk factors present. And regardless of whether a true knot is detected during pregnancy or during labor/delivery, doctors need to take appropriate measures to protect the baby. If a knot is detected during pregnancy, the doctor should monitor the pregnancy more closely to make sure it’s not affecting the baby’s growth or movement. When a knot is detected during labor/delivery, it’s very important to make sure the baby isn’t going into distress.

Contact a Michigan Birth Trauma Lawyer

If you or your child sustained an injury around the time of birth, don’t hesitate to contact a birth trauma lawyer. Very often, birth trauma cases are also medical malpractice cases and it’s important to have someone on your side who knows the law and can help hold the right people accountable. Even if your child is a few years old and you’ve only recently started seeing signs of a birth injury, you may still have legal options. At Scott Goodwin Law, you’ll be able to talk to a Michigan-based lawyer with experience helping victims of birth injuries and medical malpractice. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Image: iStock / kieferpix