Are You Prepared For a Cord Prolapse?
When my OB told me that I had a pregnancy condition known as polyhydramnios, I really didn't know what to think of it.
Sure, it means my pregnant belly has reached epic proportions, and sure, it means I look like I'm ready to give birth even though I'm only 33 weeks, but along with causing tons of extra fluid that stretches my belly out, polyhydramnios also places me at risk for a very serious complication of pregnancy:
Just hearing that phrase makes the labor and delivery nurse in me gasp, because it's one of those emergency situations that we are all taught about in nursing school and hope we will never have to encounter.
But what exactly is a cord prolapse, and could it happen to you?
Basically, a cord prolapse occurs when your water breaks and a section of your baby's umbilical cord comes out through the cervix and vaginal opening first—before your baby or right alongside of it.
It's an emergency because the cord can be pinched off by the baby's head or presenting part and basically cut off all circulation to your baby, placing him or her at risk for complications or death.
Contemporary OB/GYN estimates that cord prolapse only occurs in about 1.4 to 6.2 per 1000 pregnancies, but risk factors for cord prolapse include:
- Polyhydramnios (yours truly—because there is extra fluid and the baby can be floating around more freely)
- Breech babies
- History of premature labor or premature rupture of membranes
- Artificial rupture of the membranes
- An unusually long umbilical cord
How will I know if I have a cord prolapse?
Sometimes, a woman will feel the umbilical cord “slip out”—it will look shiny and slippery and, well, like an umbilical cord. Or, your care provider may be able to diagnose the prolapse if you are being monitored in the hospital by your baby's heart rate.
What do I do if I have a cord prolapse at home?
In the very rare circumstance that your water breaks at home and you have a cord prolapse, here's what to do:
1. Get all on fours. The goal here is to take pressure off of the umbilical cord, so get on all fours with your bottom as high in the air as you can. It may be helpful to place pillows to help you stay in position.
2. Call 911. If you can do this while getting on all fours, even better.
3. Take the pressure off. If you have a partner at home with you, he or she could carefully try to take pressure off of the umbilical cord by gently holding the baby's head or presenting part off of the umbilical cord. The goal is not to pinch off or compress the cord in any way, and your partner may have to hold that position all the way to the operating room. You will need an emergency c-section.
4. Stay calm. With the umbilical cord compressed, your baby's oxygen supply will be limited, so the most important thing you can do is stay calm, take deep breaths, and focus on supplying your baby with as much oxygen as possible.
As always, this article is not a substitute for medical advice, and you should always consult a licensed medical professional for any emergency situation.
Did you have a cord prolapse?